Drama and suspense is just not for these Bears. This weekend, Cal rugby came away with yet another Pac Sevens title, its ninth in 10 years. Cal, which is no stranger to close games when playing for a Pac championship, left little room for doubt this time around.
Over the course of five games this past weekend, the Bears scorched the opposition to the tune of a massive 198-12 point differential.
Cal rugby is never short on talent, but this weekend’s display showed just how much of a difference there is between the Bears and the next-best team in the tournament field. Picking up where they left off at Treasure Island less than a month ago, Saturday’s pool play at Stanford games proved to be a series of runaway victories for the Bears. It also proved a series of unfortunate events for Oregon (38-7), Utah (39-0) and the aforementioned Cardinal (58-0). These matchups marked the first time all season that the Bears’ talent consolidated to just one team.
Anyone who has kept track of Cal’s sevens history over the year would have guessed that Sunday’s knockout round games against other top seeds UCLA and Arizona would have given the blue and gold at least some more trouble than their previous three opponents. Still, unfortunately for the Bruins (who played Cal close on the same stage last year) and the Wildcats, this time around proved even worse than matchups past.
Capping off an impressive fall season, Cal arrived at Stanford Sunday to play better than at any point this year. The Bears, who had allowed UCLA two tries at Treasure Island, seemingly decided the result of the game with a try just 53 seconds into the match as Cal’s defense stepped up to shut out the Bruins in the semifinals (32-0).
The finals against Arizona proved to be a repeat of the Treasure Island championship game, with a dominating performance from Cal thanks in part to a Bears defense that had found a new gear. Cal was able to hold the Wildcats to only one try Sunday afternoon. And with a final score of 31-5 over Arizona, Cal found itself again in familiar territory — the mountaintop of the Pac Rugby Sevens.
Easily the story of the weekend, the Bears defense became a brick wall in Palo Alto. This vaunted unit only allowed two tries all tournament long and made the weekend for the opposition a nightmare.
To highlight just how difficult it was to score against this Cal squad, Oregon’s lone score in the final minutes of its pool play game was converted off of a miraculous full-body stretch that just barely managed to touch the paint in the try zone. And as Oregon players huddled and celebrated their score on the big, bad Bears, a scorekeeper on the sidelines tallied: Oregon 7, Cal 26.
Put simply, no one was coming close to stopping the blue and gold juggernaut this year.
And for Cal rugby faithful, who now set sights on the spring season and 15s, there is a lot of good to gleam from this short six-week tournament circuit. Returning Bears were able to move on from the end of last spring and continue to carry the load for the team. Newcomers found plenty of time on the field, and many minutes of invaluable game experience. Over the course of three tournaments, Cal galvanized its squad, taking home three first-place finishes in the process.
And though the hardware and the triple crown of fall is a great achievement for any team, something tells that this storied Bears program won’t rest on its laurels for long. But for now, Cal rugby can enter the holiday season at the top of the Pac and, yet again, as the team to beat on the West Coast.