New opponents, same Bears. A week after head coach Jack Clark’s 700th win in 15-a-side rugby, Cal takes on Utah at Witter Rugby Field. Needless to say, the stakes are already high: A win for Cal would confirm its flawless run in this spring season and would help it enter the crucial games scheduled in March with greater assurance.
The Bears conceded an early try by the spirited Bruins, with this victory taking much longer than expected. The experienced Cal squad multiplied technical inaccuracies and could not display its usual offensive game plan.
The Utes are visiting Strawberry Canyon for the first time since November 2021, a matchup that Utah lost 36-5 in the PAC Rugby 7s Championships. Both programs later faced each other in Salt Lake City in a 15-a-side confrontation. The Bears left no chance to their Pac-12 rivals, compiling 10 tries in a 68-0 clean sheet win.
Yet, the outcome of Saturday’s game is far from predictable. The adversaries are looking to capitalize on their convincing 41-0 win at home against Air Force last Saturday. Improving to a winning record of 2-1, another strong performance in California could be crucial for the Utes at this point of the season.
“Although traditionally one of the better teams, Utah might be below that standard at present,” Clark said in an email. “I expect they roar into the match like everyone else that comes to Strawberry Canyon does.”
Keen to build on a resilient defense, Cal conceded more than 10 points for the first time this year against UCLA. Not catastrophic, this fragility stems from an indiscipline that the team needs to work on ahead of Saturday.
That being said, Clark emphasized that self-discipline and regaining possession of the ball were key for success against Utah.
“We need to reduce our error count which would lead to more continuity in attack and playing less defense. Less penalties in defense and just becoming more stout around the source of possession is a must,” Clark said in the email.
Witter Rugby Field will see a new lineup Saturday, aiming to forge efficient chemistry and give some game time to newcomers. Underclassmen have repeatedly proved to their coaching staff that they could be counted on on any occasion.
“We will likely rotate the lineout in a similar manner as we have over the last few weeks. Around a half dozen changes from this past Saturday I expect,” Clark said in the email.
A third consecutive win in Bear territory would further open the path for a qualifying bid in the West region playoffs. The upcoming visitors in Berkeley, nationally-ranked Arizona and Navy, will force Cal to up its game intensity and refine its strategy.
The Bears hold all the cards to preserve their undefeated record and gain some precious momentum in the middle of this XVs season. It remains to be seen whether the style and dominating strategy can pair up with winning outcomes.
Kickoff is scheduled against Utah this Saturday at 1 p.m. at Witter Rugby Field in Berkeley, and the match will be broadcasted on the Pac-12’s website.