April 23, 2013
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BERKELEY - No. 1 nationally ranked California (20-0, 5-0 PAC) hosts Navy (9-1, 7-0 Atlantic Coast) in the Varsity Cup National Championships semifinal at 2 p.m. PT on Saturday, April 27, when Cal students, youth under 12 and all military personnel with ID will be admitted free to Witter Rugby Field to see the Golden Bears and Midshipmen compete for a slot at the May 4 final. Gates open at 12:30 p.m.
Both teams are coming off shutout wins at the Varsity Cup Eastern Super Regional on April 20 at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis, Md., where the Bears defeated Notre Dame and the Midshipmen dispatched Dartmouth.
Navy has 10 final-four appearances in the national collegiate championships since 1980, including a runner-up finish to Cal at the 1994 national collegiate championship, a 27-13 victory for the Bears. Since 2000 the Midshipmen have advanced to the national collegiate postseason 10 times.
Once again a formidable team led by longtime coach Mike Flanagan, Navy hopes to get over the top with its first-ever win over the Bears this weekend. Cal is 33-1 all-time against all the U.S. military academies combined, its only loss coming against Air Force at the 2003 national collegiate semifinals.
The postseason history between Cal and Navy dates back most recently to May 4, 2007, when the Bears beat the Midshipmen, 63-31, in the national collegiate semifinals. Cal also came out on top in their next and most recent meeting in 15s, at the 2009 San Diego Invitational, where Cal beat Navy, 54-7.
Both teams have completely turned over their rosters since those meetings and have only competed recently against each other in the Olympic 7s code of the game. Cal has also had success there, beating the Midshipmen twice in 2012, at the Collegiate Rugby Championship 7s in June and in the September final of the Buckeye 7s.
An intriguing matchup is sure to play out on Saturday at halfback and flyhalf, with Cal's young tandem of sophomore scrumhalf Nicklas Boyer and freshman Harry Adolphus facing off against Ricky Neel-Feeler and Jack McAuliffe, both of whom made major impacts in the Middies' Super Regional victory.
"This is in many ways a typical Naval Academy team, a bunch of tough, athletic, competitive guys," said Bears head coach Jack Clark. "What is somewhat unique in this version of academy rugby is the quality of their halfbacks. I thought they were the best combination at the regional. They are both gifted athletes and exceptional rugby playmakers."
While the Bears were certainly pleased to advance against the Irish in Annapolis, they also know they'll need a better effort to defeat a very well put together Navy team. Also on Saturday, BYU hosts Central Washington in the other semifinal starting at 1 p.m. MT/12 p.m. PT. The winners of these matches will meet May 4 in Provo, Utah, for the Varsity Cup National Championship.