Another weekend, another dominating win for Cal rugby.
Aside from a close loss to rugby powerhouse the University of British Columbia, the team’s matches are effectively offensive practices. Cal has won by scoring an average of 88 points in its 13 wins on the season.
The Bears, however, are still taking it one match at a time.
“We have two big games coming up,” said head coach Jack Clark. “We focused on this game, and we will focus on the next two games against some great teams. We’re not even thinking about the postseason yet.”
Cal (13-1, 3-0 Pac-12) had not lost any energy as it played its penultimate conference match during Homecoming weekend, thrashing Utah 118-0 in a Saturday afternoon matchup for Cal’s eighth shutout this season, and the team has still not allowed a point in conference play.
The Bears were left scoreless for all of 30 seconds, as senior fullback Troy Lockyear scored the first of his four tries to put the team up 5-0. Cal did not step off the gas pedal, holding possession for most of the match and scoring from the first minute to the last. This was epitomized by junior scrumhalf Keanu Andrade’s play in the 36th minute, as he stripped the ball from the Utes and ran in 20 yards for a try to put the Bears up 58-0 early.
“We were able to hold possession,” Clark said. “Our handling was reasonably good, pushed the ball into space, and scored a lot of tries.”
Utah nearly became the first conference opponent to score on Cal in the eighth minute, appearing to score a try, but the Utes had a player step out of bounds on a pass.
But Cal rebounded from the defensive lapse to put up 65 points in the first half on 11 tries, with senior flyhalf/fullback Elliot Webb converting five of them.
“We never took anything off the gas,” added captain and senior flanker Nic Mirhashem. “It’s a given that we’ll make mistakes, but we stuck to our system and the design of our play. That got us through the 80 minutes.”
In the second half, Lockyear again opened the scoring with an unconverted try in the 43rd minute. The Bears scored another nine tries in the final 40 minutes, with Webb converting two more and his replacement, freshman flyhalf Sam Walsh, converting two of his own. Sophomore wing Marcus Shankland also scored two of his tries in the half for four total in the match.
After Mirhashem scored a converted try in the 65th minute to give Cal a 113-0 lead, Utah had its best opportunities of the afternoon. The Utes drew a penalty in the 68th minute, but flyhalf Kelsin Puipunu’s kick fell wide of the goal posts. Throughout the next 10 minutes, the teams scrummed near the try zone, but Utah could not break the barrier.
When the Bears recovered the ball, the team quickly took the ball to the opposite side of the field, as sophomore center Adam Roeske scored the final try of the match, capping a 118-0 victory.
During halftime, three teams from a storied Cal rugby program were recognized — the 1994, 1999 and 2004 squads celebrated the respective 25th, 20th and 15th anniversaries of their national title campaigns.
“Putting on the Cal jersey is a huge responsibility,” Mirhashem said. “Going through the full 80 minutes is tough, but it’s a matter of knowing what you’re representing. It’s bigger than yourself, and seeing all the generations of Cal rugby men keeps the team going towards our goal of winning the national championship.”
Before the match, Cal played a “curtain raiser,” scoring 23 tries to defeat Humboldt State 143-0. Junior scrumhalf Ken Kurihara led the way with four tries. The team also played Friday night at Santa Clara, starting 13 underclassmen to best the Broncos 76-16, led by hat tricks from freshman flanker Jason Severance and junior wing Taylor Damron.
The Bears will play their final conference match next Saturday, hosting Arizona (5-1, 2-0).
“We have some tough teams coming here the next few weeks,” Clark said. “We’ll just keep improving our game.”
Kunal Dutta cover’s rugby. Contact him at [email protected].