BERKELEY – On the strength of eight tries, including two apiece from sophomore Harry Adolphus and fullback Jake Anderson, California defeated Central Washington, 58-14, Saturday in a Varsity Cup National Championships semifinal on Witter Rugby Field.
The Golden Bears (18-2, 5-0 PAC) will face Brigham Young (17-1), which blanked Navy, 60-0, in the other semifinal Saturday, at the Varsity Cup National Championships final in Rio Tinto Stadium, televised live on NBC Sports Network from Salt Lake City Saturday, May 3, at 2 p.m. MT.
A capacity crowd Saturday in Strawberry Canyon showed its appreciation for senior captain Seamus Kelly and five other players who made their final home appearance. Kelly’s airborne try in the 14th minute followed the first touchdowns by Adolphus and Anderson, who finished with 28 points scored on two penalty kicks (2-of-2) and six conversions (6-for-8) in addition to his two tries.
The Wildcats got on the board in the 18th minute with a try by flanker Jacob Bates and finished their scoring in the 75th minute after Josh Bower (2-of-2) converted a try by fullback Scott Dean, but Central Washington never mounted a serious threat after the Bears got out to a 24-0 lead in the first 15 minutes.
“Especially in the first half, it came down to how fast we played,” said Anderson. “The way we were getting to the breakdown, resourcing the ball and moving it away was really encouraging.”
Added No. 8 Tiaan De Nysschen, “We played some of the best of the rugby we've played all year.”
With a steady wind at their backs, the Bears ended the first frame with a goal-line stand that held the CWU attack up in goal twice before the halftime whistle. Despite changing sides for the second half to gain the wind advantage and some optimism, Central Washington could not crack the Cal defense for another 35 minutes, as replacement forward Jack O’Beirne added a try and flanker Alec Gletzer punctuated the Bears’ effort with his try before the final whistle.
“I don't know if the wind had so much to do with it as Cal did,” said Wildcats head coach Tony Pacheco. “Whenever we made a mistake, Cal was clinical in how they punished us and put in tries. We’re a young side and our best rugby is still ahead of us, but seeing what Cal did to us today certainly is a frame of reference.”
As the Bears stayed on course toward victory in the second half, fans seized their opportunity to say thank you and good bye to final-year players Kelly, De Nysschen, Tanner Mohr, O’Beirne, Brad Harrington and Alex Bowman as they entered and exited the contest during substitutions.
While the Blue and Gold savored a successful last run of the season onto Witter Rugby Field on Saturday, the team maintained a focused outlook for May 3 against BYU. The Bears will be facing the Cougars in the championship game for the eighth time since 2006. Cal has won six of those title contests, although BYU holds the current crown having defeated Cal, 27-24, at the death in the 2013 Varsity Cup final.
“It's definitely something meaningful and will take some time to sink in, but right now we still have a job to do,” said Kelly of his last match at home with BYU awaiting on May 3. “If you're going to win a championship, you want to go through the best, and we have that opportunity in front of us.”
For tickets and other information on the May 3 Varsity Cup National Championships final, visit VarsityCup.us.
After 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
03:00 Jake Anderson 5, 2
12:00 Jake Anderson 3
18:00 CWU (Jacob Bates) 5, (Josh Bower) 2
20:00 Jake Anderson 3
34:00 Jake Anderson 5, 2
Halftime Score: California 48, Central Washington 7
64:00 Jack O’Beirne 5
75:00 CWU (Scott Dean) 5, (Josh Bower) 2
80:00 Alec Gletzer 5
Final Score: California 58, Central Washington 14
The Team vs. Central Washington
15. Anderson, 14. Battaglia, 13. Kelly (c) (Barrientes @ 71:00), 12. A. Salaber (Harrington @ 69:00), 11. Adolphus, 10. Webb, 9. Bosco, 1. Walsh, 2. Mohr (O’Beirne @ 61:00), 3. Vrame (Fry @ 61:00), 4. Kondrat, 5. Zerbino (Bowman @ 61:00), 6. N. Salaber, 7. Gletzer, 8. De Nysschen (Sweet @ 71:00)