Fun day at Witter yesterday. Cal rugby in all its glory took on its rival, University of British Columbia in the first leg of the "World Cup." Cal won 33-24. It is an aggregate score-based title, so if UBC wins in the next match up in Canada and wins by more than 9 points, then UBC wins the Cup. We will deal with that game on another day.
For now, we have the excitement of the World Cup, one of the few games a year where Cal won't obliterate its opponent by triple digits). This was a very good game. Cal jumped out to a 20-5 lead at half, thanks to an early Pick 5 (Rugby's touchdown equivalent, the try, is worth 5 points with the ensuing kick worth 2) by Jared Braun. Think: Kevin Riley versus Nevada 2010. Braun just jumped the pass and was off to the races. I have a shot of that one in the gallery above.
Cal dominated the first half, especially considering that UBC's one score apparently included a non-call. I'll be the first to admit that, despite over a decade's worth of watching rugby, I still don't understand all the rules. However, Cal coach Jack Clark was EXTREMELY unhappy about a non-call that allowed UBC to score their 5 points.
For all of Cal's heroics in the first half, UBC took over in the 2nd. They managed to get it from 20-5 at half to 28-24. Cal had opportunities, but was playing sloppy at times and couldn't take fullest advantage of them. UBC is a great team and if you give them an inch, they'll take a mile.
What is interesting about Cal fans at rugby games is that we are like USC fans at a football game during the Carroll admin: totally entitled. "Of course, it's 20-5, it is our destiny that Cal will win this one, like we do all the others." Most rugby games are laughers and there is minimal need for emotional involvement. The Cal fans do the chants and the cheers and clap along, but we never need to put our shoulders into it.
When UBC scored a try to make it that one score game, it was like waking that sleeping giant. We started making a lot more noise and getting the energy going. Rugby is like soccer wherein the action never stops. There aren't stoppages for easy noise-creation. I don't know if there are rugby songs that are sung similar to in soccer. Perhaps at the national level or in Europe, but not at the collegiate level in my experience. I don't know if it was our energy increase or not, but just a few minutes after UBC pulled a few points away, Braun had his SECOND! Pick 5. I have a shot of that one in the gallery with him streaming down the field. He actually injured himself during the run, but gutted it out. It looked like a hamstring pull.
With that Pick 5, the momentum (WHICH IS A THING THAT EXISTS IN SPORTS) totally swung by Cal's way. We managed to keep UBC out of the end zone and secure the victory. Great job by the rugby team and great job by the fans!
There is only 1 more weekend home game at Witter and that is next Saturday, the 22nd, against UCLA. It is on TV and hopefully Cal will have another great victory. They played earlier this year at the All-UC Tournament and Cal won 18-3.
If you can't make it to that game, there is another Bay Area weekend game left in the season. On Saturday April 5, Cal is taking on its Bay Area rival, Saint Mary's. This match is at Moraga at the SMC campus. If you can't make it out to any of the remaining Witter games, try to make it to that one. SMC fans are passionate about their rugby and SMC actually beat Cal a few years ago. It should be a great game in a great setting with a lot of great fans. GO BEARS!