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Cal Rugby falls to Lindenwood 26-12 in USA Rugby College 7s national championship final

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The 6th Rugby 7s national championship or the 34th overall national championships will have to wait for Cal Rugby.

Cal sophomore Sam Cusano and the Golden Bears hope to rush their way to a 6th straight rugby 7s national championship today.
Cal Athletics Twitter

2018 will be a rare national championship-less year for Cal Rugby. Granted, this has always been billed as somewhat of a rebuilding year. Nonetheless, it is surprisingly that the Golden Bears fall in the championship match of both the 15s and the 7s this year.

It was a highly contested match for the full 14 minutes between the Lindenwood Lions, the defending champs of this contest, and the California Golden Bears, it was Lindenwood that is the 26-12 winner when the final whistle was blown.

The first half saw the Cal Bears giving Lindenwood probably the toughest defense that they have encountered all weekend. Still, Bears’ few possessions were also cut short by forced turnovers from the big Lindenwood squad. Eventually, Lindenwood broke through in the 5th minute with the first try of the match, up the middle from Mikesell. They added another try just before the half to go up 14-0.

The Bears would fight back, however. Cal seized the ball off the 2nd half opening kick and methodically but swiftly scored an answer in the first minute from Zac Taverner, conversion good. Off the kick, Lindenwood scored 15 seconds later as Feake runs past the Cal defender for a try at the corner (conversion no good). Bears would immediately answer with a try by Mathew Coyle to make it a one possession match (down 7). However, the Bears can not force a turnover from the Lions. Cal defense played valiantly for about 1.5 minutes before they finally broke down for a championship clinching try to Lindenwood’s Wes White. By the time the conversion was kicked, the full time has expired with the Golden Bears down by 14.

Well, a lot of the young Cal Bears got more seasoned this weekend from playing in this tournament. Lindenwood will try to make it a double by playing in the CRC in two weeks as well. They have not come close to winning that championship during the Golden Bears’ 5 year run. Between Lindenwood and Life, it’s clear that the college rugby scene has changed a bit by these small schools going hard for some international talent in the past decade. Nonetheless, Cal Rugby is still the standard bearer. Jack Clark’s men will not make any excuses, and they will look for better results in championship finals in 2019.

GO BEARS!


Semifinals:

After the Lindenwood Lions defeated Grand Canyon by a 26-0 result thanks to their dominant 2nd half (it was only a 7-0 lead at the half), California Golden Bears book the other spot in the championship final later today (7:40 pm PT) with a 31-15 win over the Kutztown Golden Bears.

K-Town actually struck first in this one, taking advantage of some Cal indecisiveness in defense. Cal Bears would answer right back, however. Cal scored three tries before the half to grab a 17-5 lead at the half. K-Town would not quit, however. The other Golden Bears broke through with the first try of the 2nd half to stay within 17-10. Then Cal’s Zack Tavenner scored his 2nd try, both via some nifty runs, of the match to essentially clinch the final berth. Kutztwon actually almost got within one score again when they turned a late careless Cal turnover into another try in the corner, but they can’t make the key conversion to cut the lead to 7. Instead, Cal Bears end the game on a high note as Justin Dunn scored his 2nd try of the match, conversion by Lockyear is good, to close this semifinal out.

ROLL ON YOU BEARS!


Quarterfinals:

Cal starts Saturday with a 38-7 win over Arkansas. Bears jumped out to a 26-0 lead at the half and never looked back. In the semifinal, it will be a familiar 7s matchup between the California Golden Bears and the Kutztown Golden Bears, who defeated Arizona 29-7 in their quarterfinal. The two Golden Bears played each other in the knockout stages of the CRC 3 out of the past 4 years. Last year, Cal defeated Kutztown 19-10 in the QF. Cal is also triumphant over Kutztown in the CRC championship finals in both 2014 (24-21 win...only this close with a last minute Kutztown try) and 2015 (17-12 win in extra time as Jake Anderson rumbled into the try zone for the Golden try).

On the other side of the bracket, it is Lindenwood and Grand Canyon University - two squads that Cal Bears went through in the Rugby 15s postseason this year en route to the championship final.

ROLL ON YOU BEARS!


It might be a different collegiate rugby 7s national championship tournament, but it is the same results. California Golden Bears remain undefeated (24-0) in pool play of the spring rugby 7s national championships, whether it’s the Collegiate Rugby Championships like the past 7 years or the USA Rugby College 7s national championships this year. On Friday from Infinity Park in Glendale, Colorado AKA the self-proclaimed “Rugbytown” (they even have a Major League Rugby franchise there in the brand new MLR), Cal Bears defeated Indiana (31-14), Fordham (50-5), and Notre Dame College (34-12) to win their pool.

As the reward, Cal will now advance to knock-out play for the rugby 7s national championship on Saturday. The quarterfinal at 10 AM PT will see the Golden Bears against the Arkansas Razorbacks, who went 2-1 in Pool A. Note that this is the SEC school Arkansas and NOT the Arkansas State that played Cal for the Varsity Cup national final in 2017. This will be the first rugby 7s match between the two programs.

Should Cal get past Arkansas, the Golden Bears will next face either the familiar Pac opponent in Arizona (who bested Cal in OT to dethrone the Bears’ dominance of the PAC Rugby 7s this past fall) or Kutztown (the Pennsylvania school that are the other “Golden Bears” who have become the Cal rival in the CRC finals for the past two years).

Besides the Cal Bears, the other most dominant team from Friday is the Lindenwood Lions, whose 15s side lost to Cal in the 15s national semifinal last month. Lindenwood, from Missouri, will play Indiana in their quarterfinal match. The last quarterfinal is Wisconsin (who finished ahead of Kutztown based on point differential despite both teams going 2-1 in pool play) and Grand Canyon University (whose 15s side lost to Cal in the 15s round of 16 match this year). One of these 4 schools (probably Lindenwood who won this contest in 2015 and 2017) will emerge from that side of the bracket to get to the final.

Golden Bears are 3 wins away from a 6th straight Rugby 7s national championships. Combining with the Rugby 15s national titles, the Bears could be hoisting the program’s 34th national title, by far the most in Cal Athletics history, by the end of Saturday. Cal Athletics is seeking the 98th national team title.

Because they can stage a tournament within just a week, Rugby 7s is the rugby format that reappeared in the Olympics Games in Rio 2016. Ahead of Rio, college 7s became a more prominent part of the college rugby schedule since around 2010. The first three years of spring rugby 7s saw the heavily favorited Cal Bears being upset in knockout stages.

It was perhaps not a coincidence that once Cal starts to play a fall 7s schedule as well, Bears have managed to win the CRC for the past 5 years. I would be remiss if I don’t mention how much the level of play from other schools have improved over the year. Cal Bears definitely needed some luck to pull off the 5 straight victories from Chester, PA. This year, the Cal Bears will be trying to make Glendale, CO a Bear Territory instead.

Saturday Schedule for the Cal Golden Bears:

Quarterfinal, 10 AM PT - Cal vs. Arkansas

(Potential) Semifinal, 3 PM PT - Cal vs. winner of Arizona/Kutztown

(Potential) Final, 7:40 PM PT - Cal vs. Lindenwood (most likely)

*Should the Bears falter, there are plenty of consolation matches (so the Bears are guaranteed 3 matches on the day), but let’s not go into that unless really necessary.

All of the matches from this tournament will be streamed on both FloRugby ($29.99 per month unless you get the yearly deal) or Rugby Channel TV ($7.99 per month).


On Friday, Cal Bears put up a clinic in outclassing Indiana, Fordham, and Notre Dame College. Here is the scoring timeline and team roster:

The Scoring Timeline vs. Indiana

02:00 Thomas Robles 5, Troy Lockyear 2

04:00 Troy Lockyear 5

07:00 Christian Dyer 5, Troy Lockyear 2

Halftime Score: California 19, Indiana 0

10:00 Indiana (Dourier) 5, 2

11:00 Zachary Tavenner 5

13:00 Indiana (Marsh) 5, (Dourier) 2

14:00 Elliot Webb 5, 2

Final Score: California 31, Indiana 14

The Team vs. Indiana 1. Dyer, 2. Mirhashem, 3. Robles, 4. Tavenner, 5. Lockyear, 6. Flynn, 7. Cusano

Replacements: Dunn, Andrade, Kurihara

The Scoring Timeline vs. Fordham

02:00 Keanu Andrade 5

04:00 Justin Dunn 5

05:00 Marcus Shankland 5, Elliot Webb 2

06:00 Justin Dunn 5, Elliot Webb 2

07:00 Fordham (Cirillo) 5

Halftime Score: California 24, Fordham 5

08:00 Elliot Webb 5, 2

10:00 Elliot Webb 5, 2

12:00 Marcus Shankland 5, Elliot Webb 2

14:00 Ken Kurihara 5

Final Score: California 50, Fordham 5

The Team vs. Fordham 1. Dunn, 2. Andrade, 3. Mirhashem, 4. Kurihara, 5. Coyle, 6. Webb, 7. Shankland

Replacements: Spradling, Roeske, Dyer

The Scoring Timeline vs. Notre Dame College

01:00 Sam Cusano 5

03:00 Troy Lockyear 5, 2

05:00 Keanu Andrade 5

07:00 Justin Dunn 5

Halftime Score: California 22, Notre Dame College 0

08:00 NDC (Tutula) 5

09:00 NDC (Graham) 5, 2

12:00 Thomas Spradling 5

14:00 Christian Dyer 5, Elliot Webb 2

Final Score: California 34, Notre Dame College 12

The Team vs. Notre Dame College 1. Dunn, 2. Andrade, 3. Mirhashem, 4. Tavenner, 5. Lockyear, 6. Coyle, 7. Cusano

Replacements: Kurihara, Spradling, Webb, Dyer

As expected, head coach Jack Clark gave all 13 active players on his roster as much playing time as possible in pool play.

Elliot Webb, the younger brother of former Cal star Russell, along with Justin Dunn lead the Bears with 3 tries apiece on the day. Keanu Andrade, Marcus Shankland, Christian Dyer, and Troy Lockyear all chipped in 2 tries apiece. 5 other Cal Bears also found the try zone.

Lockyear and Webb were the two conversion kickers on the day.

From watching the last two Cal matches of the day, Dunn and Andrade were basically everywhere for the Bears. They were able to force turnovers and be a part of just about every drives. The younger Webb brother contributed two nifty runs in the NDC match. While the Bears do miss the experience in the middle of the three 5th year seniors - Russell Webb, Anthony Salaber, and Patrick Barrientes, this year, that did not stop the Bears on Friday.

Of course, the competition will be much tougher in the knockout rounds on Saturday, particularly in the potential final against Lindenwood.

GO BEARS!