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Cal falls short against Navy in heavyweight bout

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MARCH 14, 2023

The Bears have finally met their match.

On Saturday afternoon at Prusmack Rugby Complex in Annapolis, Maryland, Cal rugby’s attempt at a furious second-half comeback fell short to Navy, 33-28. This is the first blemish on Cal’s XVs record since the end of last season. The Bears have now lost just two games since the start of 2022.

Things were not all bad for Cal in the early going. Extending to a 14-12 halftime lead, the Bears looked like they had not skipped a beat from their impressive second-half performance against Army a week prior. For the traveling blue and gold, their momentum seemed on pace to carry them to a victory and, in turn, a No. 1 ranking nationally.

That’s when the Midshipmen woke up. Navy resoundingly responded to the Bears’ first-half successes, scoring 21 unanswered points to forge a 33-14 lead with just 15 minutes to go in the second frame. By that point in the game, the Mids were pulling away, truly showing why they were deserving of their No. 1 ranking.

For Cal, a once controllable game was nearly out of hand. The Bears’ defense, celebrated for its amazing ability to stop offenses in the second half, found the space to adjust. From the 65th minute onward, thanks to the Bears’ defensive ability, Navy would score no more. The door was open for the offense to sneak back in.

Cal responded well to being in such a large hold. With 10 minutes left in the match, junior wing Evan Weigold punched in a try to make the score 21-33. Just a few minutes after that, freshman Rand Santos’ try and Max Schumacher’s conversion brought the Bears that much closer: to 28-33. Suddenly, a remarkable comeback was almost complete.

Ultimately, the Bears’ trip to the east coast did not finish in such a storybook fashion. With fewer than 10 minutes to play, Cal had trimmed the Navy lead down to 5. The Mids were certainly reeling, and the chance to tie with a try and take the lead with a conversion was within reach. In the clutch moments of the biggest regular season game for the Bears, they fell just short.

In its last-ditch attempt to knot the score up, Cal was attempting to drive into the Navy half. Much like the rest of the second half, there was a feeling that the Bears would be able to bring the ball across the try line. But before getting into scoring position, Cal turned the ball over to Navy, who ran the clock out to hold on for the win.

Cal drops to 11-1 in the XVs season while Navy advances to 13-0, winning the second game in the spring portion of its season.

Undoubtedly, this kind of loss would sting even the most experienced athletes. But for the observer, this game gave a glimpse of just what this year’s Bears team is capable of. Against the No. 1 team in the nation, Cal was in a position to win in the waning moments.

It is said that the most growth for a team comes out of a loss, and for the rest of the blue and gold’s season, there is certainly a lot to build off of from the trip to Maryland.

With a bye next week, the Bears will have time to adjust after the loss. After that comes a matchup against Bay Area rival St. Mary’s. The Gaels were responsible for Cal’s last XVs loss in the postseason of 2021-22, the first and last tally in the Bears’ loss column that year.

Playing against Navy gave Cal a look at what it takes to beat the best in the country. And in the final stages of the regular season leading up to the postseason, there will be plenty of opportunity to close that gap.

Cal is set to take on St. Mary’s on March 25.

Contact Ryan Sheehan at 


MARCH 14, 2023