TUCSON, Ariz. – No. 2 California defeated No. 17 Arizona, 78-7, to move into first place in the PAC Rugby Conference Sunday afternoon at the Rincon Vista Sports Complex.
The win puts the Golden Bears (12-0, 4-0 PAC) in the conference lead above No. 7 Utah (4-0, 3-0 PAC), which was idle this weekend.
Cal notched seven first-half tries, including two apiece from wing Josh Tucker and flyhalf Brad Harrington, as the Bears finished with a dozen trips to the try zone. Tucker scored his third try in the second half and Harrington missed a conversion attempt late in the match. Harry Adolphus, playing fullback, converted 6-of-7 first-half attempts and finished 9-for-11 before yielding to replacement Anthony Salaber.
"We played some good rugby today, with some good flow and good penetration," said Tucker. "There are things we need to work on but it felt like a step in the right direction."
Harrington, normally a first-choice center for the Bears who made his first collegiate start in the No. 10 jersey Sunday, said he tackled "quicker decision making" as well as Arizona ball carriers for a full 80 minutes in his role at flyhalf. "I got more and more comfortable getting the ball through my hands as the match wore on," he added.
Another different look in the starting lineup was a pair of freshmen from Uruguay in lock Tomas Zerbino and flanker John Spradling, who meshed well with the veterans in Cal's forward pack anchored by No. 8 Tiaan De Nysschen.
"It was a step forward," said the senior from Bloomfield Hills, Mich. "Overall I'm proud of the guys' effort today. We need to keep working to combine our aggression with a commitment to playing smart."
The Bears exited the Grand Canyon State with two wins on the heels of their Friday night victory over Arizona State. "This road trip might do us good. We are still finding our way and have a lot to improve before contesting the teams on the second half of our schedule,” said head coach Jack Clark. “I sense the team is honest with both our potential and our journey to reaching it."
Arizona (1-3, 0-2 PAC), playing for first-year head coach Sean Duffy following the passing of legendary coach David Sitton, got its try from fullback Jake Hayebe, converted by scrumhalf Joe Kunz. Kunz also had a penalty-kick opportunity from 37 meters that he missed in the first frame.
Cal responded to Arizona's try in the 28th minute with 43 unanswered points to finish the match.
"Cal's a very good team with a rich history,” coach Duffy said. “We have a rich history as well and I'm trying to build on what Dave Sitton built. One month in, we're a work in progress. We're looking to build a good rivalry with Cal and obviously they got the better of us today. Kelly and Gletzer, especially, were very strong players out there, and across the board you can see Jack Clark runs a class operation."
In the reserve-grade contest following the Starting XV, the Rugby Bears defeated their Wildcat counterparts by a final score of 87-7.
The only other PAC contest this weekend saw No. 8 UCLA, currently third in the conference, blank Oregon State on Saturday in Los Angeles. The Bruins next face the Utes March 8 in St. George, Utah.
The Bears finish their regular season with four of their last six matches on the road. After returning home at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 5, vs. Santa Rosa JC in a match scheduled for the frosh-sophs, Cal travels to No. 12 Cal Poly Sunday, March 9, at 2 p.m. in San Luis Obispo, followed by what could be the PAC conference decider at Utah on Saturday, March 15.
Following those matches, the Rugby Bears will be back in Strawberry Canyon for Monday Night Rugby on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, against perennial Ivy champion Dartmouth College at 6:30 p.m. Their last regular-season home match is followed by the “World Cup” decider at 1 p.m. Sunday, March 23, against the British Columbia Thunderbirds in Vancouver, Canada. Cal concludes its regular season Saturday, April 5, in Moraga against the top-ranked Gaels at 1 p.m.
The postseason will begin for the Bears in the Super Regional round of the Varsity Cup National Championships on Saturday, April 19, in Westwood, where Cal will face the winner of the previous weekend's first-round clash between UCLA and Oklahoma (see bracket here). Should the Rugby Bears advance, they will host an April 26 semifinal against Utah, Air Force or Central Washington on Witter Rugby Field.
The final of the Varsity Cup National Championships takes place Saturday, May 3, in Rio Tinto Stadium outside of Salt Lake City and will be televised live on NBC Sports Network. For tickets and other information, visit VarsityCup.us.
Following the finale of their 15s season, the Bears will return to Philadelphia May 31-June 1 for the Collegiate Rugby Championship 7s, also to be broadcast by NBC Sports Network and NBC.
For CRC tickets, please make all purchases via http://www.usasevenscrc.com/tickets/cal.
The Scoring Timeline vs. Arizona
28:00 Arizona (Jake Hayebe) 5, (Joe Kunz) 2
38:00 Josh Tucker 5
Halftime Score: California 47, Arizona 7
55:00 Harry Adolphus 5, 2
66:00 Andrew Battaglia 5
73:00 Josh Tucker 5
Final Score: California 78, Arizona 7
The Team vs. Arizona
15. Adolphus (A. Salaber @ 67:00), 14. Tucker, 13. Kelly (c) (Milne @ 61:00), 12. Barrientes, 11. Milne (Battaglia @ 61:00), 10. Harrington, 9. Boyer (Bosco @ 61:00), 1. Mohr (Walsh @ 61:00), 2. O'Beirne (Bush @ 61:00), 3. Vrame (Fry @ 67:00), 4. Kondrat, 5. Zerbino (Bowman @ 67:00), 6. Spradling, 7. Gletzer, 8. De Nysschen