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Cal v. Stanford Rugby "Big Scrum" Photo Essay

Cal obliterates Stanford rugby in the Big Scrum 176-0!

What a gorgeous day for some rugby! And what a gorgeous place to hold the Big Scrum. After three itinerant years for Cal Rugby, finally they have returned home to Witter Field. Now, the field appears to be a fabricated surface of some sort (as compared to gorgeous grass), but at least it is better than holding one "home" game a year on Treasure Island.

While Memorial Stadium was being upgraded, the football team took over Witter Field for practice. There were rumors that nobody had told Rugby Coach Jack Clark about it and he found out through a 3rd party (and was upset). I have no idea how accurate those rumors are. What I do know is that for being a fan one of Cal's finest sports (if not THEIR finest sport), while they were the modern face of homelessness flat out sucked. I can only assume for the actual team, it was even worse.

But that is behind us. We've started the 131st season of Cal rugby! If there was any bad blood, hopefully they can bury the hatchet and push forward to the next 131 seasons. And let's enjoy some rugby!

This appears to be the Scrum Axe.


I know very little about it. Wish I could provide more info. I do have some information from my experience at previous Big Scrums. I've been to two (2003 and 2010). Cal won both 99-0.

According to the Daily Cal, this is the 106th Big Scrum matchup. The last time Stanford won was in 1996 (I'm kind of surprised that Stanford has won any time in the last several decades). In 2001, Stanford refused to even play the match, instead forfeiting for fear of injury.

Last year, Cal beat Stanford 74-0, which is sort of vaguely disappointing. According to the Daily Cal article, Stanford appears to be a team on the rise. Their coaching staff is chocablock with former Golden Bears and they came in 3rd at the UCLA Tournament (Cal won it).


Stanford's head coach is Matt Sherman, who played for Cal. Thanks to friend of the site, ManBearCal, we actually interviewed Matt Sherman.

He had this to say about his role as Stanford Cardinal Rugby Coach:

9. Now, you coach for Stanford. What's up with that? Seriously! That's like Eisenhower playing for Russia!

Eisenhower would look good in Cardinal.

10. How long have you coached at Stanford?

Last year, 2011 was my first, this next one will be my second.

11. What is that feeling facing the Cal team on the opposite bench?

It's like any other team, except that Cal is different because the opposition I obviously have my own personal connection, but when I coach now the experience is about the player and the team, not my background. In that sense thought it's still bigger with Cal because it's Cal v Stanford and because Cal is such a strong program

12. Admit it, when Cal beats Stanford, it makes you happy!!!!!

Up until 2011 it did.

13. What is the average day like for the Stanford rugby coach?

Reviewing past performances and trainings, meeting with players, preparing for training and matches, and coaching the team

14. What are your goals with Stanford rugby and how close are you to achieving those goals?

There are many, but the overall overreaching goal is to build one of the strongest programs in the country. This will include on field success, off field organization, top level coaching, alumni network and financial support, and status within the University. We have a lot to do, but I believe we can get there.

AWKWARD! Former Cal player Tony Vontz is also on the Stanford coaching staff. We interviewed him here!

So, there are a lot of connections between these two teams. I am proud of former Bears in whatever endeavors. It is unfortunate that they are helping Stanford get better, but, honestly, the more teams there are to challenge Cal in rugby the better. Right now, the big Bay Area rivalry is Cal v. Saint Mary's. I've been at the last two games (in Moraga). In 2011, SMC kept it close in the 1st half, but Cal dominated the 2nd half. In 2012, SMC actually BEAT Cal in the last game of Cal's season. That was the first time SMC had beaten Cal since 1990 or so.


So, I'm all for Stanford getting better and making a game of it. In theory, at least. In reality, I had a ridiculous amount of fun at yesterday's 176-0 destruction. Do I feel bad for Tony Vontz, Matt Sherman, and the other Golden Bears who were on the losing end yesterday? Yes, I do. But they made their bed and now they have to sleep in it!

Here is Coach Clark, walking into Witter:


National Anthem, surprisingly sung by Beyonce!


If 76-0 was disappointing, then 176-0 was positively orgasmic. Except that it sort of ruined my post here. Usually, I try to take photos and weave them in with a narrative to expound upon the game for those who could not attend. There was no narrative here. There is no story. There is no M. Night Shamallamadingdong twist here. Cal scored early and often. Before I could even focus on the game getting started they had scored. Before I could even focus on that score, Cal scored again.

By the time we could send out tweets on the score, they were out of date. Cal viewed scoring like Philip Glass views triplets. There is no storyline here, except that Cal is superior to Stanford in every conceivable way. There was not a lot of visible strategy. Cal could hit the holes faster. Cal could dodge through traffic better. Cal could dump tacklers better.


Frankly, Cal was so good, they kinda ruined my photos a bit. I got this new camera with 20X optical zoom. So, I'd zoom out to get some great shots of people in the middle of the field. As soon as I'd zoom out, Cal would breakaway and BAM, I'd be frantically trying to zoom back in while keeping track of the action. So, there was a lot of action that I failed to get a good shot of (or got a blurry shot of, because my settings were all wrong).


After Cal scored, Stanford would huddle in the middle of the end zone while waiting for Cal to kick. We saw a LOT of this. I could hear them angry with each other. "We can't let holes like that open up" etc etc etc.

In rugby, touchdowns (called tries) are worth 5, while the kick is 2.




If this hits me in the head, I'm suing!


This was a great stiff arm by the Cal player here. Really Patrick Chunged the Stanford guy. Remember, you can make any photo larger by opening up in a new tab.










Another breakaway.


Another breakaway.


This dude has the Sideshow Bob hair. Love it.


Another score.


Another score. Here, the Cal player appears to be running vertically across the end zone line. You score by placing the ball inside the end zone on the ground. And the kick is set by where in the endzone you place the ball. So, often times you see a player run into the end zone but instead of placing the ball on the ground, run into the middle to set up a better angle on the kick. Cal missed 3 kicks, all of which (IIRC) were at extreme angles.





At halftime, the score was 95-0. It could have easily been 101-0, but Cal missed those three kicks.


I wish I had photos from the second half for you. Since Cal was going towards us in the first half, they were going away from us in the 2nd. That meant that they spent the entirety of the second half on the far side of the field. I couldn't even really see what was going on! I got no real good photos.

I attempted to make a bet with Avi as to whether Stanford would cross the quarter field line. I'm sure there is an actual name for it, but I do not know it. Could Stanford get within 1 quarter of the field towards the end zone.

The problem was neither of us wanted to take the "Yes" side of the bet! D'oh. And then Stanford did briefly actually make it across the line (only briefly). One of us lost out on Top Dog!

2 minutes into the 2nd half, Cal scored and it was 102-0. Well, guess nobody coulda forseen that Cal might ever break 100. There's no third digit on the scoreboard. Please, join me in a round of WHAT?!?!?? *record scratch* *dog with droopy jowls whelps* No third digit?!?!?! What the heck!

Can we charge Stanford to upgrade the scoreboard? It's their fault we broke 100.


Sadly, though, we could not break 200. Cal only won 176-0. Only.


And they said Stanford was improving this year. So, does this make up for the last 3 Big Games?