The opener of the two-match “World Cup” was won by California at Witter Rugby Field Wednesday when the Bears defeated the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in a 39-7 bruiser. California will travel to Vancouver to face the Birds in the Cup’s second stanza on March 24 with a comfortable 32-point advantage, the largest since 2002.
The World Cup is an 89 year-old annual tradition named for the Vancouver World newspaper, its one-time sponsor. Cal has retained the Cup since 2007 and won the series in seven of the past ten years.
From the outset, California controlled the game’s pace, keeping the Thunderbirds scoreless until the closing minutes of the second half. Overall, British Columbia committed too many men to rucks, leaving its flanks exposed. That gave Cal opportunities to take the ball wide..
Cal’s five tries were split among the backs and the forward pack while flyhalf Keegan Englebrecht booted four of five conversions and two penalty kicks. Most of the forwards’ point production came from brothers Neil and Danny Barrett.
As physical a game as last year’s opener -- injuries hobbled several BC’ers and sent one to hospital Wednesday -- Cal’s defense is now more stout. In 2009, the Bears gave up 15 points to the Birds in the early going.
The Bears, now 17-0 on the season and outscoring their opponents by an 18-to-1 margin, will face #11-ranked St. Mary’s College at Witter Rugby Field on March 20.
UPDATE: UBC flyhalf Charlie Jones suffered a dislocated ankle, a fractured tibia and a fractured fibula during the match. Surgery was performed Wednesday evening and, according to T-Bird head coach Spence McTavish, Jones is recuperating well. "Charlie," says McTavish, "can hardly wait to come down next year and complete some unfinished business."