Cal v. Stanfeit Rugby 1.30.10

Yes, on January 30, 2010, Cal took on Stanford in rugby.  It was never even close, Cal ended up winning 99-0 (99-0!), which was the exact same score of the 2003 match, IIRC.  Cal rugby still has yet to give up a try (aka a touchdown), which is ridiculously dominant.  But that really wasn't the most amazing part.  No, the most amazing part is that Stanford actually showed up!  As compared to, yknow, forfeiting.  You might think I'm joking, but thanks to events in 2001, I am not.

In a bizarre turn of events for one of Cal's oldest and most legendary sports events, the Stanford rugby team has forfeited its April 7 game against the Bears, citing injury and the team's inability to challenge Cal's squad.

"Cal and others have pointed out that the fear of losing should not be an excuse for a forfeit," Stanford coach Franck Boivert wrote in an e-mail to both rugby programs obtained by The Daily Californian. "Stanford has no fear of losing versus Cal, as they have done so every year but one for the last 20 years. They are, however, very afraid to get injured and indeed fear for their safety."

Ok, but I mean Cal takes its rugby really seriously, while Stanford does not.  So, it's like a major league team playing a minor league team, right?  Right?

Boivert argues Cal has an insurmountable advantage over his own team.

"There is no parity between the programs," the letter reads. It alleges that unlike most club teams, Cal "basically recruits the best players," giving it a tremendous edge.

"Everybody would laugh at that, and would not take it seriously" the letter reads. "Well, this is exactly the situation in college rugby."

A quick glance at the two teams, however, reveals the two have a striking amount of similarity.

While rugby does not have scholarships at either school, it enjoys symbolic varsity status at Cal, while the Stanford Web site touts the team's $1,077,000 endowment that funds the salaries of 10 coaches (Cal has four) and trips to, most recently, Fiji and New Zealand.

It also says the team can help talented high school players gain admission to Stanford, something Cal can only do if players meet minimum UC eligibility requirements.

 

Ok, so, hmmm, Cal doesn't seem to have any advantages over Stanford besides the ones it gains through hard work and dedication.  What did Coach Jack Clark think about this?

"That's all about building a war chest of excuses," Clark said of Boivert's claims.

Clark said he offered to hold some of his best players out of the game in order to quell the Cardinal's fear of injury, but Boivert said it would make no difference, citing Cal's second team as "the second-best team in the nation."

You think that's bad enough, Stanford wasn't even finished.

The letter also requests that Stanford's program play in the second division of the Pacific Coast region next year, even though the team was second in the nation just three years ago.

The argument for dropping down centers around UC Davis, one of the best teams in the league, as much as Cal.

"Our roster is nowhere as impressive as UC Davis' current roster of three teams with very capable athletes," the letter reads.

 

But on March 10, the same day Stanford decided to write the letter and request a change in division, it defeated Davis, 42-33.

So, in the very letter it forfeited the Cal game, it requested to drop down to the second level of competition, claiming it was not even as good as UC Davis, THE VERY TEAM IT HAD JUST BEATEN!  So, let's be honest, in 2001, it wasn't about institutional differences, it wasn't about being much, much worse than UC Davis, it was about one thing and one thing only:

"Cal has also offered to look at this game as a learning experience," the letter read. "The Stanford players see no learning in being physically overrun and outmatched by a huge team, and views it more as a miserable afternoon."

Stanford might have dodged its miserable afternoon in 2001, but I can personally report back from Witter Field that it dodged no such bullet on January 30.  After the jump, take a look at some photos of the day and hear some stories from the game.  If you attended the game or have any other thoughts on the brutal domination of Cal rugby, add them in the comments.  GO BEARS!!!

The closest Stanford came to being ahead of the Cal rugby team was when they ran onto the field before Cal did. 

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But even there, you could see that the Cal players were just better conditioned and much larger than the Stanford players.  I give this Stanford team all the credit in the world for walking into the buzzsaw that the 2001 team refused.

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Cal received the opening kick and moved the ball down the field fast.  Cal jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead with a kick of some sort.

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I'll be 100% honest here.  Even after all these years, I have a limited knowledge of the rules.  Rugby is a game that can be enjoyed even with a lot of ignorance about what is really going on.  So, I'm not entirely sure how Cal gets to kick what amounts to a field goal.  But kick it they did and quickly, it was 3-0.

The action on the field was fast and furious.

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This game had a lot of broken tackles by Cal players and fast break runs.  The last game I went to was the UBC game last year.  That was a tight rugby game between two really good teams.  It didn't have anywhere near the broken tackles or breakaways by Cal.  Here, however, Cal was just stronger and faster than Stanford.  They would get into the open field and blow by people, ziggzagging past defenders.  Or 2 Stanford guys would converge on a Cal player and he'd throw em off and keep going.  It was just brutal out there.  And that was when we were on offense!

On those rare times that Cal was on defense, there were a lot of suplex-style tackles where the Cal guy would pick up the player off his feet and throw him to the ground.  At one point, a Cal player essentially threw a Stanford player into another Cal player.  It was like the world's greatest game of ping pong!

Cal quickly got up big.  It was like 35-0 before even NorCalNick showed up and he was only about 10 minutes late!  The Cal flag guy just stopped even trying.  For the first points scored, he ran up and down the length of the field waving the flag.  Then, he stayed in place, but waved the flag.  Then, by the time Cal was up big, nothing.  We started heckling him loudly

"What?  You need Gatorade to replenish Electrolights or something?"

"Better stretch out, you don't want to pull a hammy with all that running!"

"Do we need to put in a backup flag runner to help you rest!??!?!"

Here is a photo of an in bounds pass.  A lot of non-rugby fans might not know that they lift up the players to try to catch the pass.  I am not entirely sure how that strategy developed.  I bet somewhere someone tried it the first time and the refs said "Well, that's unorthodox, but there's no direct rule against it."  And then everybody copied.  Like taking a timeout right before the field goal kicker makes his attempt.

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This happened a few times here:

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Some sort of odd mini-scrum, the context for which I lacked.  It seemed kind of like the Flying V from the Mighty Ducks, wherein the guy with the ball would have an offensive line worth of blocking up front. You can see that #6 is holding the ball there.  The guys in front of him are literally just pushing the Stanford guys down the field.  Not entirely sure why that guy is facing backwards, but that happened at other times, too, so either that guy kept getting stuck awkwardly or its part of a plan somehow.  It was a sight to behold, because the Stanford guys were just getting pushing up and down the field.

Here is a Cal player trying to block a kick:

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There were a few times where it appeared that a player might take a cleat to the face trying to block a kick.  At one point a Cal player laid on the ground for a few moments after almost blocking a kick and I feared the worst.  However, he got up and kept going, so he might have just been catching his breath after a really scary miss.  That seemed like the most dangerous part of a remarkably dangerous game.

Here is some more crazy game action:

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One on three?  Sounds fair:

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This is a scrum, where the team sets up in this complex shoulder to shoulder stance, the ball is placed in the middle between them and then they have to push the other team out of the way to get to it:

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There were many football players there.  At first, it was just Shane Vereen, but then many others, including Isi Sofele showed up.  I heard Mike Mohamed was there, but did not see him personally.

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For the second half, I moved down to the West end zone area.  It was super packed in the stands and I wanted some more space.  Plus, Cal was going West in the second half and I anticipated getting tons of great shots as the teams spent the entire second half on that side of the field.  I had missed out on a lot of great shots in the first half, because the Cal team was going east while I was on the western part of the stands.  However, Stanford spent a large chunk of the second half nearly scoring a try.  I'm not sure if that means their first team is almost good enough to score a try against our second team, but, combining that with an odd situation where Cal always seemed to be on the northern part of the field, while I was standing on the southern part, and I didn't get as many shots as I would have liked

But here are some:

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Cal was up BIG at half.  The only real drama was whether Cal would give up a try and/or break a hundy!

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Another problem I had with the photos is that I was zooming in to try to get real crisp shots of individual players.  BUT OUR TEAM IS TOO FAST!!!!  For example, here is a Cal player blowing not only through my shot, but also right past the Stanford defender.  You can see his shoe:

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Ouch to me AND Stanford!

Of course, with all the scoring, there were many "extra point" attempts (I use the football terminology for easy of understanding and also because I'm not entirely sure what the rugby term is).  In rugby, the "extra point" attempt is actually worth two points.  A try is worth 5, not 6.

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Bee Tee Dubyas, for those who have never been to Witter Field, all those blue banners in the back are for National Championships.  They ran out of space on the far wall there and had to start putting some in the northeast corner wall.

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Another try!

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And another!

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To score the try, you actually have to touch the ball down onto the field (i.e. a touchdown).  I've actually seen situations where players made it into the end zone area, but were physically held up by the opposing players and were unable to touch the ball to the ground and it did not count.  Another interesting thing is that the area where the player touches the ball to the ground is where the "extra point" kick comes from.  So, here the Cal player actually ran across the baseline of the endzone about 20 feet to get into the middle of the field as compared to the side where he was in the above photo.  Then, right before he was about to be needlessly tackled by a few Stanford players, he touched the ball down.

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Notice #23, the defender in the above photo walking off the field there. The Stanford team just looked so defeated after a point.  After a try score, they'd all be bent over, trying to catch their breath.  I almost started to feel sorry for them (almost!), because it was just such a MASSIVE shellacking!  But I mean, they just weren't  in the same league as Cal when it came to the physicality of the game and that made all the difference.  Independent of any strategies or advanced techniques (which I wouldn't have understood anyway!), Cal just had the better athletes and it showed.  Cal never would have had a player with a visible belly and moobs (second player rom the right with the thin headband):

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More game action:

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This here is from a wild scene where the ball was just flying crazy.  There'd be a couple times when the ball would go flying down the field (either from a huge kick or a series of fumbles) and it'd be a footrace.  Cal won those footraces (and got a couple long bomb-style tries by just catching a kick and running it in!).  Here, the Cal player appeared to catch the ball in the end zone.  The fans, as ignorant as we all are, went crazy cheering another score.  I was watching the game by this point with an Irishman, who started explaining that there was no score and kinda mocking us fans. We deserved it.

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Of course, Cal did quickly score after they restarted play:

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And then again!

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I am really sort of disappointed in these partially unzoomed photos.  However, I learned my lesson early that the Cal team was too fast for me AND I kept getting photos blocked by that stupid blue pad.  I don't know why Cal was on the north side of the field and scoring RIGHT by the uprights there.  Oh well. 

The final score:

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The score keepers were kept busy all day long!  After each game, the men's team comes running around the field, cheering on the fans in what apparently is called a "Lap Of Honor."

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On the way out a few more football players passed me.

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Bee Tee Doobie Brothers, Cal beat Stanford 99-0 and Sac State 81-0, thereby answering the question "Which school is better, Stanford or Sacramento State?"  There are only two more home games left.

Wed., Feb. 24 vs. British Columbia Witter Rugby Field 3:30 p.m. PT

 

And

 

Sat., Mar. 20 vs. Saint Mary's * Witter Rugby Field 1:00 p.m. PT

 

Not entirely sure why the UBC game is on a Wednesday, ensuring that many people who would love to cannot make it.  However, if you can make it, I recommend highly that you go.  It won't be a giant beatdown, but it'll be a real rugby game.  I'll definitely be at Saint Mary's!  Hopefully, it'll be as fun as the Stanford game. GO BEARS!

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