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Cal Rugby vs. BYU Varsity Cup Final Open Thread

And it all comes down to this. One final 80+ minutes to determine the collegiate rugby championship in 2013. Will it be the undefeated Cal Bears (21-0) or will it be the defending collegiate rugby champions BYU, who have never lost a home collegiate match in school history and are hosting this championship final? GO BEARS!


Cal Rugby (21-0) vs. BYU (11-2) in Varsity Cup Final

"American Rugby's National Collegiate Championship"

When: 12 PM PT

Online Stream/Replay: Youtube

80 minutes away from a possible national title number 27, Cal Rugby faces the defending Collegiate Rugby Champions (although it should be noted that Cal did not participate in the postseason last year in order to create a new competition like this year's "Varsity Cup"), BYU in BYU's home field.

Cal's Starting Lineup:

Some pre-match quotes:


Seamus Kelly, Sr. Outside Center and Team Captain

"I remember playing BYU in their backyard in 2011 and it was a major challenge. I can only imagine playing on their home field in Provo. It's something that we're going to have to address. Home field advantage is just that, an advantage."

"It's [Cal vs. BYU] the marquee matchup in collegiate rugby. With Cal playing BYU in the national championship, it seems like all is right in the world. When we talk about what it means to put on the Cal jersey, the guys who've come before us and the success they've had, it just feels right having to go through BYU to be a part of that legacy."

Danny Barrett, Sr. Forward

"It will be a home-field advantage and that's part of the challenge. When it comes to testing your potential, it's going to be an environment that does that."

"It's pretty cool to have paved the road for PAC Rugby. To have a team like this, a young team, to win the PAC, to win the ‘Cup' with UBC, to go to the national championship, it's a real tribute to where we've been and where we want to take Cal rugby in the future."

"It's something you're always going to remember and something you'll always share with your teammates. In 20, 30, 40, 50 years, you're going to go back and remember the game like it was yesterday, the tackles, the scores and the guys who were out there with you. It's a precious memory that you'll never forget. For us, as coach says, it's constant performance improvement, and it's the same for BYU. Neither team thinks they're going win just by putting on the jersey. It's something you work for. They're working just as hard as we are. It's going to be a great one."

"It's going to be all out for every second. Growing up with two older brothers who also played for Cal successfully against BYU in national championships, it's something I relish being a part of."Jake Anderson, Jr. Fullback

"It'll definitely be an intense environment. We expect a lot of noise and it will be a great challenge."

"It's a great honor to be part of a squad that gets to play in the Varsity Cup National Championship. So many players that have done it before, that's the reason that it's such a big deal, to honor that jersey and represent our University. Seeing how hard guys worked to get it done, we want to look back and evaluate ourselves the same way."

"There have been a lot of different goals this season: the PAC Rugby Conference, the return to Witter Rugby Field, the ‘World Cup' series and now the Varsity Cup. BYU is a big measuring telltale and we accept the challenge."

"I've never played against BYU but I'm one of the more experienced players on the squad, so I'll have to bring the experience that I have. It's going to have to be our best game to get it done."

From the BYU presser:

California owns the recent post-season series between the two teams dating back to 2006 with a 6-1 record and the last meeting also at Rio Tinto Stadium in front of over 12,000 fans going in the favor of the Golden Bears in 2011 by the score 21-14.

The Cougars beat the Bears in 2009 by the score 25-22 at Stanford’s Steuber Rugby Stadium when BYU came from behind in dramatic fashion after an early 12-0 deficit.

BYU captain Ryan Roundy knows this Saturday’s clash will be one he and his teammates won’t soon forget.

"This is one of those days you really look forward to," Roundy said, "To have Cal on your home pitch here at South Field and to be playing for a National Championship on top of that. It doesn’t get any bigger than that."

With 26 National Championship trophies residing in Berkeley, BYU head coach David Smyth knows it will take more than home field advantage to beat Cal and take home his own program’s third title.

"Cal is Cal," said Smyth, "great players focused on one thing and that’s beating you. No matter when or where you play them you can expect a strong and well-disciplined team that goes for all 80 minutes. They require your maximum focus and effort as a team if you’re to stand a chance at beating them."

Some info about the potential match-ups from the Cal Presser:

The Cougars are stocked with 2012 All-Americans in prop Ray Forrester, lock T.J. Allred and No. 8 Ryan Roundy, the BYU captain, in the forwards; and centers Seki Kofe and BYU footballer Paul Lasike in the backs. Cal counters with three All-Americans of its own in the forwards - Danny Barrett, Brendan Daly and Alec Gletzer - and another in captain Seamus Kelly at outside center.

The Bears' level of experience dips on either side of Kelly, starting with sophomore Nicklas Boyer at scrumhalf. It remains unclear whom the Bears will have at flyhalf with injuries having forced three different starting players over the past three matches at that position. Another underclassmen might be found at No. 12 in sophomore Jesse Milne since Jared Braun could also still be on the mend. Sophomore Andrew Battaglia on the wing is relatively experienced by comparison, but still a second-year player. Senior winger Josh Tucker and junior fullback Jake Anderson provide the most experience in the blue and gold's deep three.

Kelly and Barrett both played all 80 minutes and prop Tanner Mohr saw 10 minutes of action in Cal's last meeting with BYU at Rio Tinto Stadium for the 2011 national collegiate championship. Nobody else in the Bears' lineup has ever faced the Cougars. Meanwhile, for BYU, five players - Forrester, Roundy, Kofe, front rower Ishmael Tilialo and halfback Inoke Funaki - will take the field on Saturday with memories of having played in the 2011 title match against the Bears.

How they got here:



Cal started their Varsity Cup Run by defeating Notre Dame 77-0 at the home of Navy in Annapolis, MD

<shameless self promotion>Check out my photo-essay from that match for some highlights in picture form. Part I ishere. Part II is here. </shameless self promotion>

In the semifinal, Cal hosted Navy in Berkeley and won 74-6. Watch replay of this match here (FREE)!

BYU got to the final by handling UCLA 69-8, then Central Washington 53-20.

While the Bears got two blowout victories in the past two weeks, both matches started rather sloppily (by Cal's super high standard) in the first 10-15 minutes. Can the Bears put everything together and play a flawless match this afternoon in the Championship game?


In case you missed it from the semifinal post:

Looking for more rugby information? The Daily Cal recently published this nice feature on Cal Coach Jack Clark (so had I actually try to interview him last weekend, it would have been redundant anyhow).


Here are some excerpts:

With his team trailing the Gaels at halftime, Clark was at his calmest. The players didn’t need their coach to get their face; they knew exactly what to do.

"He knows how to put things into perspective," says Gary Hein, who played rugby at Cal from 1984-88. "With regard to any given game, moment in time and season."

But it wasn’t until Clark came to Cal that he first played the sport. After his football season in the fall, he and a dozen of his teammates joined the rugby team in the spring.

"It was just kind of a natural migration," Clark says. "I think somebody just tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Let’s go — you’re going to play rugby.’"

It turned out to be the perfect sport for the big and athletic Clark. But it wasn’t until he was cut trying out for the Philadelphia Eagles in the National Football League in 1978 that he became devoted solely to rugby.

He was selected to join the U.S. National Team, and in October 1980, he was the only American starter for the World XV team at Cardiff Arms Park in Wales.

And then there is this almost unbelievable story:

But one month later, on Nov. 10, 1980, the course of Clark’s life — and playing career — changed.

At an after-party of a restaurant opening in San Francisco, a woman came into the party, saying she had been accosted. When the assailants tried to follow her in, they were forced to leave by the other people in attendance.

Observing what was happening, Clark was not eager to get involved. He felt that other people in attendance — San Francisco 49er players and other rugby players — could take care of the situation.

But as he tried to go outside to help clear the men out of the street, he was hit in the back of the head by one of the assailants.

Clark chased the man across the street when suddenly, he faced a man with a gun, a 9 mm Magnum. He had "no way to go and no way out."

He was hit four times.: twice in his left leg, once in his right knee and once in his hand.

Clark was rushed to the hospital and underwent multiple surgeries. After two months in the hospital, losing 40 pounds and suffering "debilitating" pain, he faced possible amputation.

"It was important for me to fight through that," Clark said. "You can always give up your leg, but there is only a period of time you can fight for it. And I wasn’t done fighting."

Even though he recovered well enough to start training, and he felt like he could play rugby again, Clark decided against it.

If it hadn’t been for that shooting, Clark thinks now, he may never have got into coaching rugby and would have lived a completely different life.

Not to make light of the situation, but it reads almost like the origin of Batman/Daredevil/INSERT SUPERHERO.