Cal Captures Rugby Win Over Arizona

February 14, 2016

Cal Captures Rugby Win Over Arizona

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Photo: ABFlyer Photo

Cal Bears Press Release: February 13, 2016

“TUCSON, Ariz. – With nine players making their first meaningful starts of the season, the Golden Bears opened their PAC Rugby Conference account Saturday with a 61-12 win over Arizona on William David Sitton Field.

California (6-1, 1-0 PAC) got 10 tries from a total of seven student-athletes, including a hat trick from flanker Nick Salaber and two from Jesse Milne, who wore the No. 11 jersey on the wing.

The Wildcats (2-4, 0-2 PAC) scored twice against the Bears on tries by wing Jeremy Fleet and inside center Shane Dempsey, the latter converted by fullback Kyle Rogers (1-for-2).

Cal dominated the run of play despite some unforced errors that allowed UA possessions it would not have otherwise enjoyed and made the day more difficult for the Bears. It was a performance upon which the Blue and Gold will want to build heading into their next match against ASU.

“I thought we did OK, Good in stretches and less than good in spots,” said head coach Jack Clark. “We spread around a lot of playing time opportunity within the team, which is the right thing longer term. Now we have to make the turn and show up as a competitive team on Monday versus the Sun Devils.”

Among those who got the nod to start for the Blue and Gold was freshman Nate Becker at No. 7 and sophomore William Fuller at No. 14, while Blake Haynes got the start at hooker alongside prop Kevin Sullivan, giving Scott Walsh and Michael Bush a rest. Jamie Howells started at flyhalf, allowing Russell Webb a break, while Matt Ternan manned inside center and Karl Thornton played the full 80 minutes at fullback. Connor Sweet started at lock alongside James Kondrat, which gave Tomas Zerbino a breather, while Nic Mirhashem and Thomas Robles were relieved of their starting flanker jobs for the day in favor of Becker and Salaber.

Cal aimed on Saturday to play quality rugby while dividing the playing time among its roster. Although their play was not perfect, the Bears exited a hot, dry afternoon against the Wildcats grateful to have a conference win under their belt with a chance to show continuing improvement against the Sun Devils on Monday.

“There were a lot starting minutes spread around and that is important as we build our team,” said Milne, who lined up opposite the Wildcats’ speedy winger Dante Weeks. “I wasn’t thinking about one-on-one matchups. I was thinking, and this team is thinking, about how we can keep improving toward our goals.”

The elder Salaber, whose start put him on the pitch with his brother, Anthony, said that part of Saturday’s mission was to respect the legacy of David Sitton, the longtime UA coach after whose memory the Wildcats’ venue is named. Another part, Salaber said, involved his own family legacy, as his mother, Mary, and father, Rob — who played on Jack Clark’s first national championship team in 1985 — were both in attendance.

“Today was a big deal for me as someone who’s been on and off the first team,” Nick said. “It meant a lot to play on a field named for coach Sitton and to do it in front of my family.”

“It was surreal for Cal and Arizona to be competing on a field named in honor of our late friend Dave Sitton,” added Clark. “It was melancholy.”

In the reserve grade contest following the Starting XV, Cal defeated Arizona, 45-3.

The road trip continues Monday, Feb. 15, when Cal visits Arizona State for a 3 p.m. MT varsity match on Sun Devil Soccer Field, preceded at 1 p.m. reserve-grade contest at the Sun Devil Fitness Field.

The next home match back in Strawberry Canyon will feature Cal vs. Air Force on Feb. 20 at noon (preceded by a curtain raiser vs. Cal Maritime at 10 a.m.), followed by the conference-play visit from UCLA to Strawberry Canyon on Feb. 27 at 3 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online and in advance to regular-season home matches at calbea.rs/1RIZvXJ.

The match with the Bruins on Feb. 27 figures to be a pivotal point in the Bears’ pursuit for a fourth straight PAC Rugby title, coming as the third conference contest on Cal’s slate. UCLA is already off to a PAC-leading 2-0 conference record with wins at home over ASU and Oregon State.

The final two matches of Cal’s conference quest are March 12 at home vs. the Beavers at 1 p.m.and March 26 at Utah, where the Utes could prove to be Cal’s opponent in the PAC decider for the fourth straight year. Utah is also 2-0 in the conference and takes on UCLA in Salt Lake City on March 12.

Between Cal’s date with UCLA and the final two matches of the Bears’ PAC schedule is a showdown with Saint Mary’s in Moraga at 11 a.m. on March 5. That battle is followed four days later by a home night match vs. Santa Clara at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 9, when the younger echelons of the roster figure to represent their University.

The decisive Canadian chapter of the “World Cup” series is Saturday, March 20, at 1 p.m. in Thunderbird Stadium, and the regular season ends Wednesday, March 30, in Steuber Rugby Stadium at Stanford, where frosh-soph Bears are expected to be selected for match for the Scrum Axe against the Cardinal at 6 p.m.

The Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Rugby Championship national postseason begins with first-round action April 9 and culminates May 7with the championship final, after which Cal will turn back to the Olympic style of the game at the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship June 4-5 ahead of the return of rugby to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.”

The Scoring Timeline vs. Arizona

09:00 Jamie Howells 3

11:00 Anthony Salaber 5

14:00 Jamie Howells 5

19:00 UA (Jeremy Fleet) 5

23:00 Jesse Milne 5

29:00 Nick Salaber 5, Jamie Howells 2

36:00 Jesse Milne 5, Jamie Howells 2

Halftime Score: California 32, Arizona 5

42:00 Nick Salaber 5

50:00 Nick Salaber 5

55:00 Drew Gaffney 5, Jamie Howells 2

61:00 Kevin Sullivan 5, Jamie Howells 2

65:00 UA (Shane Dempsey) 5, (Kyle Rogers) 2

80:00 William Fuller 5

Final Score: California 61, Arizona 12

The Team vs. Arizona

15. Thornton, 14. Fuller, 13. A. Salaber (Flynn @ 59:00), 12. Ternan, 11. Milne (Coleman @ 62:00), 10. Howells (Coyle @ 67:00), 9. Boyer (Tavenner @ 62:00), 1. Sullivan, 2. Haynes, 3. Vrame (Baylor @ 62:00), 4. Kondrat (Damas @ 62:00), 5. Sweet, 6. N. Salaber, 7. Becker, 8. Gaffney

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North American Rugby News With A USA Slant