Cal rugby coach Jack Clark sometimes likes to mix things up. In Saturday’s match against Chico State, Clark bumped senior James Bailes forward from his usual fullback position to flyhalf.
The moved paid off handsomely. By halftime, the #1-ranked Bears had racked up a 52-0 shutout against the Wildcats, giving Clark the scoring cushion needed to relieve some of his seniors. Freshman forwards were rotated in at the interval to gain some valuable match experience.
No. 8 Tyler Colin, sub’ed in at the 50th minute, took no time to score two tries for the Bears, joining freshman center Jared Braun and junior scrumhalf Connor Ring in the two-touchdown club.
Sophomore fullback Anthony Lombardo landed behind the tryline four times while five other Bears each contributed a try to the scoring fest.
Chico State managed to put together two tries in the second half, converting one, while the Bears piled on the points to come away with a 97-12 victory. A reserve-side match followed, ending 72-3 in Cal’s favor.
The win is Cal’s 19th for the season overall and the fourth win against its NorCal opponents. The Bears return to Witter Rugby Field next Saturday for a final league match against #3-ranked St. Mary’s. The outcome of that match will determine if Cal or St. Mary’s wins a “bye” into the national collegiate Round of 16 as the #2 seed.
Cal’s playing like it has something to prove. The ruggers are ahead of last season’s pace both offensively and defensively. To date, the Bears outscore their opponents 15-to-1; last year at this time, Cal’s ratio was less than 10-to-1. In 2009, the Bears scored an average 61 points per game and allowed six points. This year, Cal’s run up an average score of 66 points per game while allowing only four.
Conversions, which contributed 17% of Cal’s points last year, were booted with 51% accuracy at this time last season. Now they’re scored 71% of the time and make up nearly 21% of the Bears' point total.
In other NorCal action, St. Mary’s felled Sacramento State 38-15 while #11 UC-Davis defeated Stanford 34-7. In Utah, #2 BYU took down Colorado 52-7, bringing the Cougars’ record to 10-1 with two more “friendlies” to be played before the nationals.