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Bears celebrate homecoming with win over Wildcats

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FEBRUARY 28, 2023

There was plenty to celebrate at Witter Rugby Field this weekend. In a cloudy and grinding homecoming match Saturday, Cal rugby pulled away in the second half to secure a win against the Arizona Wildcats, 36-17.

Cal began the contest in a back-and-forth with Arizona. Vying for proper positioning and space on the pitch, the Bears finally came over the hump in the 11th minute via an impressive run by Caleb Tomasin who streaked through Wildcat defenders from 22 yards out. Arizona matched immediately with a try off of a costly Cal turnover to even the score at 5.

The Bears were able to pull ahead to a 17-5 lead just minutes before halftime. But in the 40th minute, just before the halftime whistle, the Wildcats punched back with a try and conversion to create and close score at the break, 17-12.

Arizona was able to keep the game within 5 points for two thirds of the game, matching a Cal second-half try with a score of its own in the 58th minute. But on the ensuing conversion attempt, as if to signal the Wildcat’s day was over, Alex Brundage charged in to block the kick. This would end up being Arizona’s last points of the game.

To put the game away for good, Alex Aguero and Cal Liebowitz put in tries in the 60th and 75th minute, respectively. When the final whistle was blown, the Bears had secured yet another win for its XVs season, advancing to 9-0 on the year. In the reserve grade game ahead of the main event, Cal shut out the Wildcats 92-0.

The winning performance against the Wildcats did not come without a share of miscues, though. Namely, key turnovers from the Bears resulted in scoring opportunities for the Wildcats. Several other mistakes kept the blue and gold from truly running away with the match.

Momentum was hard to come by, and the Bears had several miscues that stymied scoring opportunities in the opponents’ third, as well as a few situations inside the five-meter line.

Despite these issues, the blue and gold now boast several wins against nationally ranked teams and experience in tighter matches than usual. As the weeks go on, the formula for success for this season’s Bears is becoming clearer.

“There’s no magic potion where if you do one thing it’ll all work out,” said head coach Jack Clark. “Our commitment to playing fast and working hard on the field has to be a given.”

Against Arizona, there was a noticeable increase in effort. Where execution wasn’t perfect, as with the turnover that led to an Arizona try, there was also energy. Brundage’s conversion block and Cal’s ensuing defense that capped the Wildcat attack at 17 points on the day was admirable and bodes well for future competition.

That future is sooner than you might expect. The Bears’ next game caps off a monthlong home stand in dramatic fashion.

Army, one of the nation’s most respected rugby programs, will make the trip from West Point to take on the Bears. In the following week, Cal goes back-to-back with service academies and will travel across the country to face off against the equally regaled Navy rugby program.

With four games left in the regular season, the Bears’ biggest challenge is still improving themselves.

“There are five weeks between now and when we want to worry about a postseason … the most important thing is (that) we become the team we want to be for the postseason,” Clark said.

Cal takes to Witter Rugby Field once again for a chance to go 10-0 next week against Army.

Contact Ryan Sheehan at 


FEBRUARY 28, 2023