VANCOUVER, Canada – A nine-point series advantage for California entering Sunday’s “World Cup” finale came under fire in the first half and evaporated in the second stanza as the British Columbia Thunderbirds earned a split in the series and won the ‘Cup’ for the first time since 2006 with a 40-3 defeat of the Rugby Bears at Thunderbird Stadium.
Cal surrendered the ‘Cup’ after an eight-year streak that spanned two full cycles of student-athletes, part of a lengthy run that saw 14 of the past 17 series awarded to the Bears, and head coach Jack Clark acknowledged, "We're proud of that record. But congratulations to the Thunderbirds for their victory this year. It was well earned."
Cal (16-1, 5-0 PAC) had substantial possession and good field position, holding its own in scrums and lineouts to set up good ball service in the first frame, and did so without captain Seamus Kelly, the All-American and reigning College Player of the Year during his service to the U.S. National Team. Formidable defensive pressure from UBC was met well by the Bears on their own defensive front, yielding only one try in the opening half to flyhalf Bryan Tyrer.
Match-day captain Jake Anderson returned to action after a seven-game absence with injury and missed a makeable first penalty attempt in the fourth minute before delivering what turned out to be the Bears’ only points of the afternoon in the 24th minute on a 35-meter penalty kick.
Cal lost All-America winger Josh Tucker, replaced by Matthew Chipman, and was trailing 13-3 at the break with the opportunity still there to retain the ‘Cup,’ but the Bears quickly saw outside center Jesse Milne also leave the contest, replaced early after the resumption of play by sophomore Anthony Salaber. As a patchwork backline struggled to string together multiple phases in the face of fierce resistance from UBC at the breakdown, two tries apiece from UBC wingers Sean Ferguson and Erik Hunter-James put the match out of reach and gave the series to the Thunderbirds (15-1) on aggregate points, nullifying Cal’s 33-24 win over UBC Feb. 15 on Witter Rugby Field.
“We knew we were up against it after our last time at Cal so we focused on defensive structure,” said UBC head coach Ramses Langston. “We figured that if we could hold our ground and not give up points, we’d have a chance.”
“We didn’t make enough plays, ultimately,” said Anderson.
The Bears return home to begin preparations for their regular-season wrapup Saturday, April 5, in Moraga against Saint Mary’s at 1 p.m. on Pat Vincent Field.
After that expected thriller signals the end of the regular season, the postseason gets underway 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 that 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. British Columbia
13:00 UBC (Ben Tyrer) 3
24:00 Jake Anderson 3
27:00 UBC (Ben Tyrer) 5, 2
36:00 UBC (Ben Tyrer) 3
Halftime: British Columbia 13, California 3
46:00 UBC (Sean Ferguson) 5
60:00 UBC (Erik Hunter-James) 5, (Bryan Tyrer) 2
72:00 UBC (Sean Ferguson) 5, (Bryan Tyrer) 2
77:00 UBC (Erik Hunter-James) 5
80:00 UBC (Bryan Tyrer) 3
Final Score: British Columbia 40, California 3
The Team vs. British Columbia
15. Anderson ©, 14. Tucker (Chipman @ 19:00), 13. Harrington, 12. Milne (A. Salaber @ 43:00), 11. Battaglia, 10. Adolphus, 9. Boyer (Bosco @ 57:00), 1. Walsh, 2. Mohr (Bush @ 70:00), 3. Vrame (Fry @ 70:00), 4. Kondrat, 5. Zerbino, 6. O’Beirne, 7. Gletzer, 8. De Nysschen