Cal Rugby Loses to UBC

February 20, 2017

Cal Rugby Loses to UBC


Photo: ABFlyer

Cal Athletics Release: Anton Malko, Feb. 18, 2017

BERKELEY – California mounted a second-half surge but could not come all the way back Saturday against British Columbia on Witter Rugby Field, where five freshmen and three sophomore starters were joined by two more frosh-sophs replacements as Cal fell 28-17 to commence the 2017 “World Cup” series.

The Bears (11-1, 3-0 PAC) shut out the Thunderbirds in the final 40 minutes and got tries from Drew Gaffney and Fawzi Kawash following a first-half penalty kick from flyhalf Russell Webb (1-1, 2-of-2 conversions).

“There are a lot of positives we can take from this,” said Webb. “The underclassmen were immense. Every single one of us is ready to go into that training room tomorrow and start getting ready for the next job.”

British Columbia (9-2, 2-0 Premier) got two tries apiece from lock Sam Clark and the 25-year-old winger Manar Kulkan, all four converted by Adam McQueen. The inside center’s only miss from the tee was a 51-meter penalty attempt that fell short in the 21st minute.

Wind was a factor as it blew west to east at over 20 miles per hour, which assisted kicks at times but more often thwarted lineout throws that Cal needed to maintain some measure of pressure in a phase of the game it could control. More often, the match was contested in the trenches of the breakdown and the set piece of the scrum, where UBC’s veteran frontline of Clint Lemkus, Alex Mascotte and Chris Taylor packed down against two freshmen playing their newly converted positons in tighthead prop Damon Wiley and hooker Sid Holland alongside veteran Kevin Sullivan at loosehead.

“We had a pretty steady level of play and the young guys did great,” said Sullivan, who called the younger players’ effort “a little inexperienced in set pieces, perhaps, but they more than made up for it in open play.”

“We tried to give it our all out there,” offered the Oakland-born Wiley, who arrived at the University as a backrow player. “For us young players, it’s anything we can do to contribute. We want to get back to work. The sky’s the limit.”

Among the moments the Bears will cringe to see on film were a couple of missed connections that doused try-scoring opportunities in the second half. In the 50th minute, Troy Lockyear had an evasive counterattack moving toward the UBC 22-meter line with freshman Sam Cusano available outside, but the fullback did not recognize his winger’s availability and the sequence was eventually stymied.

Lockyear had to exit the match in its final moments with a possible injury, as did Holland and freshman flanker Thomas Spradling, but the replacements who joined the contest added effort to the contest, with sophomores Nathan Becker hitting second-half rucks and Kawash finding the try zone at the end of the day.

“We showed a lot of heart and got something in the end,” said Jake Goena, who connected with Becker in a phase inside the UBC 22 that helped set up Gaffney’s try. “Our physicality didn’t let us down. It was 80 minutes a lot of mental toughness.”

The next action for the Blue and Gold takes place at home under the lights on Wednesday, March 1, when a side likely to be comprised of frosh-sophs and deeper reserves hosts Santa Rosa Junior College at 6:30 p.m.

After Cal makes its trip across the border to UBC March 5 for the “World Cup” conclusion, the Bears remain in road mode for their final weekend of PAC Rugby Conference competition, traveling down to Los Angeles to face UCLA and USC in back-to-back matches on Saturday, March 11.

A Cal reserve side will face Stanford when the Bears return home to honor the traditional match for the Scrum Axe on Wednesday, March 15, at 6:30 p.m. under the lights on Witter Rugby Field. Then, on Saturday, March 25, Pac-12 Network broadcasts its second match of the spring from Strawberry Canyon, where the Bears will celebrate Homecoming when the Saint Mary’s Gaels visit for a 5 p.m. kickoff. Always a spirited match, the last meeting between the Bears and Gaels ended as a 27-14 Cal win on March 6, 2016, in Moraga. The Blue and Gold also beat Saint Mary’s in its last visit to Berkeley, a 27-20 result on March 28, 2015.

The Scoring Timeline vs. British Columbia

12:00 UBC (Sam Clark) 5, (Adam McQueen) 2

23:00 UBC (Manar Kulkan) 5, (Adam McQueen) 2

30:00 UBC (Sam Clark) 5, (Adam McQueen) 2

34:00 Russell Webb 3

39:00 UBC (Manar Kulkan) 5, (Adam McQueen) 2

Halftime Score: California 28, British Columbia 3

77:00 Drew Gaffney 5, Russell Webb 2

80:00 Fawzi Kawash 5, Russell Webb 2

Final Score: California 28, British Columbia 17

The Team vs. British Columbia

15. Lockyear (Thornton @ 79:00), 14. Cusano (Honens @ 23:00, Cusano @ 33:00), 13. Barrientes (Flynn @ 23:00), 12. Salaber, 11. Goena, 10. R. Webb, 9. Andrade (Kawash @ 74:00), 1. Sullivan, 2. Holland (Ogburn @ 46:00), 3. Wiley, 4. Sweet, 5. Paylor, 6. Spradling (Becker @ 65:00), 7. Mirhashem, 8 Gaffney

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North American Rugby News With A USA Slant