It’s hard not to snicker whenever we report on Cal rugby matches against UC Santa Cruz. After all, the chaps from the coastal campus are the Banana Slugs! Still, there wasn’t much sluggardly about Santa Cruz’s early first-half performance against the Bears (Overall: 23-0, College Premier Division: 6-0) Sunday.
Cal fielded a line-up almost entirely comprised of freshmen and sophomores to beat a feisty Santa Cruz side 87-24.
Despite the scoreline, the Slugs weren’t intimidated by the Bears.
Santa Cruz (Division II: 3-3) took just four minutes to answer sophomore center Brad Harrington’s third-minute try.
Spurred, the Bears then rallied to notch tries in the 11th and 16th minutes, one by sophomore fullback Dan Collins, the other by freshman lock Patrick Coleman.
Two minutes later, Santa Cruz made its last statement of the half with a penalty kick.
Cal then dotted down four unanswered tries -- by sophomore winger Josh Tucker, freshman winger Max Shaulis, freshman hooker Travis Moscone and Patrick Coleman -- before half time was whistled.
Sophomore flyhalf Andre Coquillard converted six of seven first-half tries, boosting the score to 47-10 at the interval.
Early in the second frame, after freshman scrumhalf Jose Pena’s unconverted try, Cal’s flyhalf duties were taken over by sophomore Brandon Kraft. Kraft went 5-for-5 following tries touched down by Patrick Coleman, Josh Tucker, Travis Moscone, freshman winger Hunter Frisinger and one of his own.
Capitalizing on Cal’s unforced errors, Santa Cruz scored two converted tries in quick succession in the 59th and 64th minute.
All told, nine Cal players scored tries Sunday. Patrick Coleman earned a hat trick while Travis Moscone and Josh Tucker each touched down twice.
The underclassmen will get a chance to refine their skills further when they take on Cal Poly’s reserve line in the Bears’ final regular season match on April 23. Cal’s First VX will square off against the Mustangs (5-5, 2-3) to wrap-up Pacific Conference play before the May 7 national quarterfinals.
Cal has clinched first place in the Pacific Conference, granting the Bears home field advantage against the Mid-South’s No. 2 side, presently Life University (5-1, 4-1). Nothing’s certain in the Mid-South, though. Life’s Running Eagles are just two points out of first place behind Arkansas State (8-0, 5-0) with one match left to play.
The Pacific’s No. 2 team, St Mary’s (13-2, 5-1) locked in its position with a 22-18 nailbiter over Central Washington on Saturday. The Gaels will travel to the Mid-South’s No. 1 home turf for the May 7 knock-out round.
Over in the Western Conference, BYU (11-0, 6-0) leads the pack with one match to go. Two sides -- Arizona State (5-2, 4-1) and Utah (10-2, 4-1) -- are neck-and-neck for the No. 2 slot. The Western Conference’s top team will host the second-place side from the Rugby East Conference, presently Navy (6-2, 5-0). Western’s No.2 will travel to face the eastern conference champ, which is -- for the moment -- Army (5-0, 5-0).