BERKELEY – California make its annual trip to Canada on Sunday, March 23, to play the University of British Columbia in the “World Cup” series finale at 1 p.m. in Thunderbird Stadium.
The Golden Bears (16-0, 5-0 PAC) are seeking an outright win over the T-Birds (14-1) for their eighth straight “Cup” but can still claim the annual series with a loss if they emerge from the two-match, total-points competition ahead on aggregate following their 33-24 win Feb. 15 in Berkeley.
Cal recently adjusted its course favorably with a 15-try win over Dartmouth, yielding just one try 48 hours after leaking five tries to Utah in the process of winning the PAC conference title. For the season, the Bears are scoring almost 70 points per game and giving up under 10 per match to the opposition.
The T-Birds bounced back from their first loss of 2014 at the hands of the Bears to win the past two matches by a convincing combined total of 113-26. Head coach Ramses Langston will be looking for a spirited home crowd to elevate the play on his already talented roster, which includes outside center Nate Rees, a Welsh international and Cardiff star who notched two tries against the Bears in the first meeting, and Sean Ferguson, a try-scoring handful playing as a winger in the February meeting who has recently returned from a stint on the Canada National 7s Team.
The Bears are making the trip without their captain, Seamus Kelly, the All-American and reigning College Player of Year who is on the U.S. National Team roster for its upcoming Rugby World Cup qualifiers against Uruguay. Cal also won’t have center Jared Braun, who is recovering from an injury he aggravated during his two-try performance against UBC. Jake Anderson had to exit the “Cup” opener with an injury of his own after delivering 10 points during the first half, but the All-America fullback is hopeful to return to action this weekend after missing seven matches.
“Although our ranks are a bit depleted, our spirit is strong,” said Cal head coach Jack Clark. “When we set our mind to the task, we’re a determined bunch.”
First recognized with a trophy to the series winner from the Vancouver World newspaper, the “World Cup” has offered fans on both sides of the border one of the finest intercollegiate rivalries in North America since 1921. Despite its recent series dominance, Cal has had to fight to achieve a 5-5 record in Vancouver over the last 10 years, and has limped away with heads held high following defeats as recently at 2009, a 24-23 gutting that still left the Bears with the series win.
Last year the Bears entered Canada with a 10-point advantage and ran away with the series after a 38-6 victory to sweep the “Cup” for the fourth year in a row. The last time UBC won the series was 2006, when the Bears held a seven-point point advantage coming into Vancouver but lost the rematch, 29-15, and surrendered the “Cup” on total points to the T-Birds.
In a rivalry that has run this long, history can repeat itself either way; ultimately, it lies at the feet of each team to write its chapter in the 2014 edition, and that’s a challenge the Bears view as a privilege.
“Heading to Vancouver, tracing the footsteps that Cal men have been taking for 94 years – there’s something special about that,” coach Clark added.
Following the conclusion of the “World Cup,” the Bears wrap up their regular season Saturday, April 5, in Moraga against Saint Mary’s at 1 p.m.
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.