Cal v. British Columbia Rugby 2.21.09 First Half

Cal Rugby is one of the most dominant sports teams of our era.  But, let's be honest here, many of the teams that Cal plays against aren't really on the same level.  And, as much as I love to see 80-0 by halftime, you really want to see Cal take on a team of equal talent to give them a run for their money.  The University of British Columbia is one such team.

So, we streamed to Witter Field to take in the game.  Of course, first I decided to stop by the Rose Garden to see if, after the fierce rains, there were some beautiful roses.

But alas.....

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DAMN YOU MONTH OF FEBRUARY!  WHY MUST YOU TAUNT ME SO?!?!??!

Congratulations, Winter, you are now my least favorite season!  Before we went to the game, I really should have read carp's Rugby post more than just having my secretary skim it and then read some of it to me.  I probably would have had a better idea of what was going on.  Ah, who am I kidding, I still woulda had no idea.

[ragnarok's note:  They also passed out free programs at the gate that included many of the laws and terminology that carp's post covered, as the Athletic Department assumed (correctly) that there were going to be a lot of Rugby newbies at this game.  Not that any of this would have helped TwistNHook.  I assume that, as a lawyer, he is allergic to reading anymore than he absolutely has to.  Especially something with "Laws" in the title.]

Witter Field was packed.  We got there 30 minutes early and I still had to wait in line to buy my tickets. 

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Ragnarok, AndBears, and I met CalNet, Berklium97, CalBandGreat, and CalGal to watch the first half.  Fiancé Of Berklium97 was there, too.  It was fun.  BearStage showed up part-way through the first period.  Unfortunately for us all, Mr. CalNet, PaleoDan, was unable to attend.  :(!

For the first half, we happened to sit right behind the UBC cheering section and their delightful sweaters.  These sweaters were blue and gold with the letters "BC" on them.  Many, many, many people, myself included, thought they were rooting for Cal, because they color scheme is exactly the same as ours.  And we just sorta ignored the BC.

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These guys were full of energy.  After the singing of National Anthem, they all started singing "O, Canada."  They were heckling people left and right.  They even heckled the band by mocking the trombones for not playing after UBC scored  a try (read: touchdown).

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They were most of the reason I was able to follow the game, too.  If they were happy and excited, something BAD just happened.  Not sure what, but something bad.  And if they were whining about it, well, then, YAY!

[ragnarok:  This is entirely too true.  I'm pretty sure at least 90% of the people around us (including me) had no idea what had just happened every time the referee (is that what they're called?) blew his whistle and stopped play.]

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The band was right next to us, too:

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I am not sure when the band started coming.  I remember going to a Stanford game in 2003 and they had a recording.  So, something has changed.  Probably for the better, although with the constant action, they don't get lots of opportunities to play.

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So, the teams came out.

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I never noticed this up in the hills:

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Tightwad Hill was starting to fill up.  Apparently, they started to turn people away from the game, because it got too packed.  Way to go, Cal fans!  Supporting the ruggers!

[ragnarok:  This is actually a different side of Tightwad Hill, and according to a friend of mine who was turned away at the gate and went up on the hill, it afforded a much better view of the action that that had by many of the people with standing room-only tickets on the sidelines. TwistNHook:  I stood at the sideline for the second half and would quibble with that.]

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Via Berklium97

It actually got more packed than that.  A LOT more! 

There was a helicopter flyby:

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And soon the action was off!

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I really have no idea what is going on in many of these photos:

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I wish I had a better grasp of the rules, because it seemed like wild pandemonium out there. 

This thing is cool here.  This is the only part of rugby I could do without dying.  And even then there's a 40% chance I'd end up partially paralyzed after my first attempt.  It's how they do their throw-ins.

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There seemed to be quite a bit more kicking than in previous games I had attended.  Especially in the first half.  I am not sure what that means exactly.  Perhaps it means that both teams were playing extraordinarily good defense and field position was an important factor.  So, teams were focused on essentially punting the ball away to play the field position game?  I dunno.

[ragnarok:  This seems correct to me, though my understanding of Rugby is very, very basic as well.  Unlike other Cal Rugby matches I'd previously attended, this one was *very* preoccupied with field position, and the backs on both teams, especially when backed up near their own try line, would often willingly concede possession of the ball just to kick it forward and move the action down the field.  Much like a football punt, although because the action here, like soccer, is pretty much continuous, every player has to be able to make their own strategic decisions on the fly.  Both defenses were very stout, and it generally took a lot of effort for either team to advance the ball even a few meters forward.]

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Jordan Jeong was #9.

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He is from Korea and is listed at 5'10" and 250 lbs. 

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He might be 5'10" but there is no way he is 250.  No way!  He was quite a bit smaller than most, if not all, of the other players out there.  And look, I'm not too knowledgeable about rugby, but I've often seen the smaller players out there on the edges.  Get the ball out to them and they use their speed to scream down the sideline towards a try.  They generally don't get hit a lot (although I remember one particularly bad suplex on a smaller Cal player at a game a few years back).

But this guy, he was not like that at all.  He was in the middle of EVERYTHING.  I give him all the credit in the world.  He's going up against people far larger than him and holding his own.  Ballsosteel that one.

Cal on a fast break!

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More kicking:

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This looks painful:

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A giant manpile emerged in front of us.  With PaleoDan not there, CalNet was intrigued!

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A scrum:

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We're off to the races!

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When you watch Cal face other teams, they just out-power and out-speed the teams.  It's never close.  But here, it was a lot of trying to pass to the other guy and then run straight into a tackle and then kick the ball.  Not as much movement, probably because of the higher skill and ability of UBC.  But we did get a try up there.  Well, I believe we almost did.  I think there he got tackled at the 1 yard line, fumbled and then UBC got the ball.  The UBC guys were going CRAZY!  Twas frustrating.  I screamed loudly "That's like going to a Hall And Oates concert and only finding Oates there." 

That might just be the most non-sensical thing I've ever said.  And that's a FAIRLY high hurdle.

[ragnarok:  Both of these statements are true.  I even remember Twist saying that ridiculous thing about Hall and Oates to me during the game, and not even being able to come up with a proper retort because I couldn't even understand the joke.  Although, to be fair, I don't really have a firm grasp of who either Hall or Oates are.  Long story short, you learn to ignore a lot of these things when you spend time with Twist.  Twist:  YOU DON'T KNOW HALL OR OATES?!?!?!]

More awesomeness:

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We make a kick!  I never understood why certain penalties led to kicks, while others just led to something that wasn't not a non-kick (wha?).  There were several missed kicks in this game.  So, both sides failed to take advantage of some opportunities.  But IIRC UBC missed more kicks, so it benefited Cal in the long run.

[ragnarok:  UBC did miss more kicks, including a couple that I thought were eminently makeable.  Sure, you'd think that a couple of kicks might not have made a huge difference in a match decided by 16 points, but those missed kicks were huge momentum swings in Cal's favor.  Had the Thunderbirds been better able to convert penalty kicks, this match might have gone an entirely different way.]

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Berklium97 had some great photos, too, of the first half action:

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Via Berklium97

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Via Berklium97

And CalGal snapped this great shot of the reserve UBC players watching the game:

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Via CalGal

So, that was the first half.  IIRC, Cal was up at half.  [ragnarok:  Cal led 11-8 at intermission.]  It had been a low scoring affair with a lot of bruising tackles and many, many, many kicks.  In the second half, CalGal, CalBandGreat, Berklium97, Fiancee Of Berklium97, and I moved from the stands to be right on the field pretty much.  You can stand right next to the end zone, we were about 2 feet away from the field.  I'll have photos from our odyssey to the field, including being assaulted by Oski, plus the second half PLUS! the SAHPC construction site in that post.  So, keep your eyes locked here for all the rugby action from our victory over UBC.  Go Bears!

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