April 24, 2016
Cal Edges Central Washington to Move to Championship
Photo: ABFlyer Photo
Cal Athletics Press Release: April 23, 2016
BERKELEY – The No. 2 Golden Bears edged No. 6 Central Washington, 14-13, Saturday on Witter Rugby Field in the national semifinals of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Rugby Championship.
California (19-2) advances past the Wildcats (7-4) and into the final to face No. 1-ranked Brigham Young, who defeated No. 7 Arkansas State, 68-20, in Saturday’s second semifinal in Provo. The Varsity Cup national championship is set for Saturday, May 7, at 2 p.m. MT, televised live on NBCSN from South Field in Provo, Utah.
With several graduating Bears playing their final collegiate contest at home in front of family and friends, Saturday was a tense affair made more uneasy by a gusty breeze that affected both teams. Cal took a 14-7 lead into halftime on tries by Patrick Barrientes and Russell Webb, who missed a 25-meter penalty kick in the eighth minute but converted both tries. After a try by CWU fullback Ian Wright had put Cal into a 7-0 hole, the Bears defense held up the Wildcats, including CWU prop Clint Lemkus in goal at minute 36, and visiting outside center Reuben Ludick missed a 42-meter penalty near halftime.
Webb (0-for-3) missed another penalty attempt from a similar distance early in the second half after taking a late him from the Wildcats. Ludick connected on his attempt at minute 48 to trim Cal’s lead to four points at 14-10 and Webb shanked another to the left two minutes after that. Ludick second penalty made it a one-point match at 14-13 with 18 minutes remaining.
Another late hit by replacement forward Jeremey Lenaerts, the third such infraction called against CWU, put the Wildcats a man down for 10 minutes with not many more ticks than that to play in regulation time. But Cal could not convert its one-man advantage into points.
Ludick had a chance to retake the lead for the first time since CWU’s 7-0 advantage in the early stages of the contest, but he missed his 40-meter penalty attempt to the left at minute 76. Webb cleared the live ball almost to midfield and Cal stole the ensuing lineout, earning a penalty in the process that set up a lineout for the Bears at the CWU 22. But the Bears throw in was deemed not straight and in the following sequence, after the clock had reached zero, Cal was whistled for hands in the ruck to give the Wildcats a chance to win the match on a go-ahead penalty kick. But Ludick (2-of-5) missed his third and final attempt to the left and the Rugby Bears celebrated their good fortune as much as their perseverance to have earned a slot in the final.
“We didn’t capitalize on some of the things we had early on in the game,” said back-rower Thomas Robles. “Lucky to come away with the win but, on that same page, we also put in a lot of effort and stood by each other.”
“It’s such a great honor to play on this field, and to come out with a big win under a lot of pressure means the world,” added prop Scott Walsh. “It gives us a chance at the national championship.”
Saturday’s curtain raiser had some sizzle of its own, as a young Bears lineup found itself tied with the NorCal Small College All-Stars at 7-7 after 7 mins. Fawzi Kawash’s first try, converted by Matthew Coyle, was answered by NorCal’s Josh Hopo’s try and Colin Laffey’s conversion. Coyle kicked two penalties to retake the lead and the Bears traded one more try each for a 20-12 lead to Cal at halftime before the Bears went on to outscore the All-Stars, seven tries to one, in the second stanza for a 70-19 victory.
Having won their final home two matches and setting the stage for another showdown against a longtime championship rival, Cal will now prepare to challenge the team that had stood before the Bears and the 15-a-side national championship the past three springs. After the 15s season is complete, Cal will transition 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.
Final Score: California 70, NorCal Small College All-Stars 19
The Team vs. NorCal Small College All-Stars
15. d’Auriol, 14. Fuller, 13. Flynn, 12. Ternan (Centurion @ 38:00), 11. Kawash (Maggs @ 38:00), 10. Coyle, 9. Goodwin (Kawash @ 38:00), 1. Harmon (Sekona @ 30:00), 2. Ogburn (Iscaro @ 30:00), 3. Douglas, 4. Paylor, 5. Kosinski (L. Le Merle 35:00), 6. Damas (Heaney @ 44:00), 7. Frey (F. Le Merle @ 48:00), 8. Becker
Final Score: California 14, Central Washington 13
The Team vs. Central Washington
15. Goena, 14. Tavenner 13. Barrientes, 12. A. Salaber, 11. Dunne, 10. R. Webb, 9. Boyer, 1.Walsh, 2. Bush, 3. Vrame, 4. Kondrat, 5. Sweet, 6. Gaffney, 7. N. Salaber (Mirhashem @ 61:00), 8. Robles (de Gentile-Williams @ 75:00, Robles @ 78:00)