May 3, 2008
STANFORD - The California Golden Bears blasted out to a 40-0 halftime lead and never looked back against Brigham Young University, taking the 2008 national collegiate championship, 59-7, Saturday at Steuber Rugby Stadium.
In the third consecutive meeting in the final between Cal and BYU, the Bears used the opening 40 minutes to bury the Cougars with six tries, five of which Keegan Engelbrecht converted, to blow open the title contest.
BYU averted a shutout with a try by No. 8 Steve St. Pierre at the 68th minute, with three second-half tries by the Bears to round out the scoring.
Ryan Taylor scored twice in the first half, earned a hat trick a minute into the second stanza and finished the match with four tries. Senior captain Rikus Pretorius was named MVP of the weekend as the Bears tucked away their fifth straight title and 24th in program history.
"Rikus has the biggest heart out there and I was really proud of him," said scrumhalf Zak Triplett, one of seven Bears to play their final match in blue and gold today. "It's the only way to go out. We work hard for as long as we're here, and it's nice when the hard work turns into something really special."
"It's a great tribute to these young men. To front up in their academics and on the athletic field, then be at the top of the medal stand, is almost surreal," said head coach Jack Clark, who added a 20th championship to his coaching career to culminate his 25th year at the helm of Cal rugby.
"We had a very good start to the game, a lot of control. I don't think we turned over a ball [in the first half]. That put a lot of pressure on them," Clark said.
Cal was able to bounce back from a stout challenge from Saint Mary's in yesterday's semifinal to put a decisive exclamation point on its 24-1 season. Said No. 8 Louis Stanfill, "We ran around the field very well today. We attacked the space and got tries. And that Taylor, what a hell of a game."
Taylor, who did his damage as a finisher from the wing position, turned praise back to his teammates and the opposition. "They're a fierce opponent and we respect everything they bring to the table," he said of BYU.
Fullback Colin Hawley, among several Bears who endured hardships with the loss of his father, Loren, earlier this season, related the pre-match words from hooker Joe Welch in the locker room: "Joe said, `We've got to play today with fire in our hearts, fire in our bellies and ice in our veins.' We came out and did that. My heart feels good."
Flyhalf Keegan Engelbrecht, who finished the day 7-for-9 on conversions, savored the feeling of finally being able to contribute to the Golden Bears' unparalleled history after bouncing back from injuries and awaiting his opportunity during his first two years. "I'm following some really great players - Rob Weedon, Chase Brogan - it's just a relief to finally get on and try to fill their shoes," the junior said.
The Scoring Timeline vs. Brigham Young:
38:00 Colin Hawley 5
Half Time: California 40, Brigham Young 0
41:00 Ryan Taylor 5
68:00 BYU (Steve St. Pierre) 5, (Sam Thorley) 2
Final Score: California 59, Brigham Young 7
The Team vs. Brigham Young:
15. Hawley, 14. Muhn, 13. Gallinger (Gurecki @ 58:00), 12. Golding, 11. Taylor, 10. Engelbrecht, 9. Triplett, 1. Besser, 2. Welch, 3. Fry, 4. Snellgrove, 5. Jesseman (Vaught @ 61:00), 6. Balough, 7. Pretorius ©, 8. Stanfill