BERKELEY – A capacity crowd at Witter Rugby Field and a national TV audience on Pac-12 Networks saw No. 2 California overcome a halftime deficit with five unanswered second-half tries to beat No. 8 UCLA, 32-10, Saturday afternoon at Homecoming.
The Bruins led at the break, 10-0, on a penalty kick, try and conversion by sophomore winger Seb Sharpe before fellow second-year fullback Harry Adolphus got Cal on the board with a 22-meter penalty kick in the 43rd minute.
Facing their first deficit of 2014 in front of TV cameras and generations of alumni, the Golden Bears (10-0, 2-0 PAC) played through a bundle of handling errors that were compounded by UCLA’s overall strong work rate. After getting whistled for nine penalties against none for the Bruins in the first half, Cal turned the tables and applied better pressure in the second stanza, reversing the penalty count in their favor as a trickle of confidence became a floodgate of possession. Five different players found the try zone as the Bruins (7-2, 1-1 PAC) were held scoreless for the final 40 minutes.
Rather than make massive adjustments to their game plan during the intermission, the Bears set their focus to righting their own ship in order to navigate out of their halftime hole.
“We didn’t make any adjustments at halftime, we just played closer to our ability,” said head coach Jack Clark. “No doubt we let ourselves down in the first 40 minutes. UCLA should get some credit for that but there was plenty of self-inflicted damage.”
Wing Andrew Battaglia scored the first try for the Bears, battling through three tacklers to score in the left corner at minute 51, but Adolphus couldn’t convert from the left corner and UCLA maintained a 10-8 advantage. Ten minutes later, sophomore James Kondrat stole a Bruins lineout and captain Seamus Kelly fed inside center Jesse Milne for Cal’s second try, this time in the right corner. Adolphus failed to convert a difficult attempt as his kick hit the left upright but Cal had its first lead of the day at 13-10.
Sophomore flyhalf Russell Webb, who struggled with his pass and his foot much of the afternoon, scored the next try on a keeper four minutes later. Adolphus converted that try and then added a try of his own from a pass off the hands of Nicklas Boyer. Boyer had replaced scrumhalf Paul Bosco, another Bear whose passing was often suspect on Saturday.
“The Bruins really came to play and put us under a lot of pressure, made the most of our mistakes and we made quite a few of them,” said Kelly. “We came out and played a little bit better in the second half but still not our cleanest game and we have a lot of work to do.”
“Credit to UCLA, they were strong up front,” agreed loosehead prop Tanner Mohr, whose steady scrummaging and accurate lineout throws helped put the Bears back on the front foot. “In the second half we put it together much better in the scrum. But we took a step back today and that needs to be addressed going forward.”
In the other PAC match of the day, Utah improved to 3-0 in conference play with a 56-0 lashing of Oregon State in Corvallis, keeping the Utes atop the standings and Cal in second place at 2-0. UCLA fell to 1-1 and third place in conference play.
In the reserve-grade match following the First XV, Cal defeated UCLA, 83-5.
Next up for the Bears is a trip to the desert to continue play in the PAC Rugby Conference. Cal faces Arizona State on Friday, Feb. 28, at 6 p.m. MT in Tempe, followed by Arizona on Sunday, March 2, at noon MT in Tucson.
The Bears finish with six of their last eight regular-season matches on the road. The two home fixtures, both at 6:30 p.m., are on Wednesday, March 5, vs. Santa Rosa JC in a match scheduled for the frosh-sophs, and Monday Night Rugby on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, against perennial Ivy champion Dartmouth College.
The Scoring Timeline vs. UCLA
14:00 UCLA (Seb Sharpe) 3
24:00 UCLA (Seb Sharpe) 5, 2
Halftime Score: UCLA 10, California 0
43:00 Harry Adolphus 3
51:00 Andrew Battaglia 5
62:00 Jesse Milne 5
70:00 Harry Adolphus 5
Final Score: California 32, UCLA 10
The Team vs. UCLA
15. Adolphus, 14. Battaglia, 13. Kelly ©, 12. Milne (Harrington), 11. Tucker, 10. Webb (A. Salaber), 9. Bosco (Boyer), 1. Mohr, 2. Bush (Walsh), 3. Vrame (C. Fry), 4. Kondrat, 5. Coleman (Bowman), 6. O'Beirne, 7. Gletzer, 8. De Nysschen