BERKELEY – California hosts UCLA for Homecoming on Saturday, Feb. 22, at 3 p.m., in a match televised live by Pac-12 Networks as the Golden Bears and Bruins both seek to write wins into the next chapter of their PAC Rugby Conference schedules.
“We are thrilled to have Pac-12 Networks broadcast this match,” said head coach Jack Clark. “That said, if you’re within range of Witter Rugby Field on Saturday, we could use your support in person against the Bruins. They’re a talented team.”
Cal comes into the contest 8-0 on Saturday while UCLA enters at 7-1, its only loss to the Bears in a nonconference preview. In conference play both have looked dominant against other PAC outfits, as UCLA blanked Arizona State and Cal shut out Oregon State. Only Utah, with one additional conference game already under its belt, sits higher than Cal and UCLA in the standings.
On Jan. 19 in Westwood, Cal defeated UCLA, 18-3, to win the Dennis Storer Classic. That contest was played in a tournament format with abbreviated matches that offered the Bears some cover from those who saw it as a low scoreline.
While Cal may have evolved since that last meeting, besting British Columbia, 33-24, on Feb. 15 to start the “World Cup” series, UCLA also appears to have improved, most recently defeating Cal Poly on the road, 29-21.
The Bruins feature a determined set of forwards and an outstanding backline, and are well coached by former Canadian international Scott Stewart. They will be making their first trip to Witter Rugby Field since 2004.
Cal will come into the contest having limped away in some respects from its “World Cup” opener and could be without several starters who took injuries against the T-Birds. Compounding that obstacle is Wednesday night’s match against Santa Clara prior to the weekend, forcing the Bears to reckon first with the Broncos, who have already beaten San Diego State and UC Davis this season. For the second straight week, Cal is forced to prepare two different lineups to meet the demands of both matches, with some key players allocated to take on Santa Clara at 6:30 p.m. under the lights on Witter Rugby Field on Feb. 19.
After UCLA, which included a reserve-grade match following the First XV, 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.
Following this Saturday’s matchup on Pac-12 Networks, the Bears and Bruins could meet again in 15-a-side play at the Varsity Cup National Championships, where Cal, with its first-round bye, will play the winner of UCLA vs. Oklahoma in the second-round quarterfinals April 19. If the Bears win that match, Witter Rugby Field would host the Varsity Cup Semifinal on April 26 in Berkeley.
Proper pageantry, including the Straw Hat Band, yell leaders and Spirit Group, will be on hand Saturday to celebrate Homecoming, to urge on the Blue and Gold and to acknowledge the special occasion in Strawberry Canyon as cameras from Pac-12 Networks capture the competition and camaraderie always inherent to a matchup between Cal and UCLA.