March 26, 2016
SALT LAKE CITY– California claimed its fourth straight PAC Rugby Conference championship in 15s Saturday with a 46-19 win Saturday over the Utes on McCarthey Field at the University of Utah.
The Golden Bears (13-2, 5-0 PAC) scored eight tries, two apiece from centers Anthony Salaber and Jesse Milne, and added three conversions by flyhalf Russell Webb (3-for-8), while Utah (4-4, 3-2 PAC) got two tries from Chad Gough and three penalty kicks from Josh Weber (3-of-3 pens, 0-for-3 convs).
On an afternoon that got more blustery as the match progressed, Cal stymied Utah’s favored attack channels around the fringe and got the ball out to the backline, where six of its eight tries were recorded.
The Bears operated with six positional and/or personnel changes from their last outing, including the insertion of freshman Nathan Becker, who made his biggest collegiate start of his nascent collegiate career at flanker, and Karl Thornton, a replacement reserve last weekend who started at fullback to give Harry Adolphus a rest.
After George Vrame charged down an attempted clearance kick in the fourth minute and Utah restarted with a 22 drop, Cal counter-attacked and scored their first try on a dot-down by Thornton, and the Bears never trailed.
Although their play was far from mistake free, the Bears were satisfied that their effort landed them a PAC title against the Utes for the fourth straight spring.
“We’re happy with the victory but have a lot to work on going into the postseason,” said match-day captain Scott Walsh. “We wanted to be physical but we also want to stay disciplined against a tough team.”
Cal could see the Utes again this year, in either the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Rugby Championship, where the Bears and Utes could meet in the national semifinals on April 23, or at June’s Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship, where the Utes have claimed the final spot in that championship field for the national 7s title.
Next up for the Blue and Gold, a mixed side of frosh-sophs and reserves are expected to be selected for the match for the Scrum Axe at Stanford, a 6 p.m. kickoff Wednesday, March 30, in Steuber Rugby Stadium.
Following that midweek matchup, Cal will begin to transition into postseason mode with one more regular-season match remaining on the schedule. The Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Rugby Championship kicks off the national postseason April 9 on Witter Rugby Field, where Cal faces Texas in Round One while the frosh-sophs play a non-postseason match against Santa Clara. If the Bears beat the Longhorns, Cal travels to the winner of Army at Oklahoma for an April 16national quarterfinal. Cal can host an April 23national semifinal by advancing past the Black Knights or Sooners, after which the May 7Varsity Cup national championship final awaits the winner.
Following the Varsity Cup, Cal will turn back to the Olympic style of the game at the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship June 4-5, when the Bears will play for their fourth straight national title in 7s ahead of the return of rugby to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.
The Scoring Timeline vs. Utah
04:00 Karl Thornton 5
20:00 Utah (Josh Weber) 3
29:00 Anthony Salaber 5
33:00 Anthony Salaber 5, Russell Webb 2
35:00 Utah (Josh Weber) 3
37:00 James Kondrat 5, Russell Webb 2
40:00 Utah (Josh Weber) 3
Halftime Score: California 24, Utah 9
43:00 Jesse Milne 5
48:00 Lucas Dunne 5, Russell Webb 2
52:00 Utah (Chad Goff) 5
60:00 Thomas Robles 5
62:00 Jesse Milne 5
Final Score: California 46, Utah 14
The Team vs. Utah
15. Thornton, 14. Honens, 13. A. Salaber (Maggs @ 63:00), 12. Milne, 11. Dunne, 10. Webb (Howells @ 63:00), 9. Boyer, 1. Walsh, 2. Bush (Haynes @ 63:00), 3. Vrame (Baylor @ 70:00), 4. Kondrat (Bixby @ 70:00), 5. Sweet, 6. Becker, 7. N. Salaber, 8. Robles (de Gentile-Williams @ 64:00)