New year, same Bears. With the sevens tournament circuit in the rearview mirror, squads from across the West Coast look to begin the season on the right foot. The 2022 Pac Sevens champions Cal Rugby were no different. To start the year, the Bears were on tap to open this new season with a trip to UCLA and the Dennis Storer Classic. This time around in Westwood, Cal has the chance to claim its 17th consecutive tournament title.
In the fall, the blue and gold left little doubt that they remained the team to beat with its dominating 20-1 record, a record that was earned largely with its talent spread across two teams. But as the team came together to put 15 players on the field, this weekend marked the first stepping stone of a new journey towards success on a national level.
Despite the rain that drenched the field the night before, rust was nowhere to be seen in Cal’s first opportunity to play as an XV squad since April of 2022. In their Saturday matchups against UCSD and UCSB, the Bears operated as a well-oiled machine. In what can only be described as a beatdown, the Bears put up scores of 35 and 85 to a combined score of zero from the Tritons and Gauchos, respectively. Before the sun set in Westwood, the Bears were 2-0.
Sunday presented the Bears with another opportunity against the Bruins of UCLA. In recent years — especially during the fall’s sevens seasons — the Bears have found themselves in a fair share of competitive games with the Bruins. Unfortunately for UCLA fans in attendance on Sunday, this was not one of those days. Through the first two minutes of play, Cal was able to grind through the Bruin defense for a try to make it 5-0. As was on theme for the rest of the weekend, this was all the breathing room Cal would need. In a bashing of bear brothers, the Bears blanked the Bruins, 45-0.
Clearly, this weekend goes to the Cal defense. There are many teams that can win three straight to open a season, but very few who can do so with a point differential of 165-0. It should also be appreciated, though, just how the blue and gold managed to light up the scoreboard in Westwood. In all three games, Cal featured a different starting lineup as well as a different leading scorer. Over a dozen Bears had their hand in the cookie jar this weekend, as well. In the game against UCSB alone, 13 different Bears were credited with either a try or conversion.
It’s safe to say that Cal head coach Jack Clark had his team ready to hit the ground running to start the new year. To continue a hot start and extend their 3-0 start, the Bears will return home to face Santa Clara.
Catch Cal Rugby and Santa Clara face off at Witter Rugby Field in Berkeley on Saturday, Jan. 14.