With four tries from four different players, a 45-meter penalty kick by Jake Anderson and a drop goal from Russell Webb, California fought through 80 minutes of rugby to defeat British Columbia, 28-18, Saturday afternoon in front of a capacity crowd on Witter Rugby Field in the opening match of the "World Cup" series.
Thunderbirds outside center Brock Staller kicked two penalties, scored a try and made a conversion to account for 13 of his team's points.
"It means a lot to get a victory over UBC," said captain and try-scorer Seamus Kelly. "Every guy had a good moment and I'm proud of the guys."
Begun in 1921 with a trophy from the Vancouver World newspaper to the winner of the two-match, home-and-home competition decided on points differential, the 2013 "World Cup" series began on Saturday with adrenalin-fueled excitement that offered the Thunderbirds the first opportunity to score following a Cal penalty in its own end. But the attempted three-point kick by Staller (2-of-3 penalties, 1-for-2 conversions) from 23 meters was off the mark.
The T-Birds were knocking on the door again just three minutes later before a determined tackle by Cal lock Brendan Daly drove UBC into touch and awarded a lineout to the Bears. Kelly soon broke 50 meters into British Columbia territory and the sequence finished with a try for Cal's Danny Barrett in the left corner, converted by Anderson (1-for-4 conversions, 1-of-1 penalties) for a 7-0 Bears lead.
Webb, a freshman, increased Cal's lead to 10-0 at minute 36, when he improvised an 18-meter drop goal after Cal's attacking sequence hit a T-Birds roadblock. Three minutes later, Anderson lined up and connected on a 45-meter penalty kick in front of packed grandstands along the south sideline to give the Bears a 13-0 halftime lead.
Staller kicked his own 45-meter penalty to put UBC on the board early in the second stanza before another tackle into touch by Daly set up Cal's next sequence, finished with a try by Bosco. Staller delivered another penalty for the T-Birds in the 63rd minute, but only after Kelly and wing Anthony Lombardo had also scored tries for the Bears.
Down 28-6, UBC added a converted try by Ross Weymark and an unconverted try by Staller in the final minutes to close the gap to 10 points, the differential that Cal will carry in its favor to the rematch with British Columbia on March 24 in Vancouver.
The Bears are sure to miss the crowd that supported them Saturday in Strawberry Canyon when these teams resume their series in Thunderbird Stadium. "Motivation is there with this crowd - it's just amazing," said Webb of the Witter Rugby Field faithful. "I think our best offense was our defense. I'm proud of how we stuck together."
"We put ourselves under some pressure in the first half with some penalties and handling errors, but we played some pretty courageous defense during that stretch," said Cal head coach Jack Clark. "We found our stride in the middle part of the match and ran in some tries. We could have closed the game out better, but UBC gets some credit for that. There was a little bit of everything in that game and a lot of lessons."
British Columbia head coach Spence McTavish, whose team fell to 10-2-1 following its loss, concurred that the first half saw his team "put quite a bit of pressure and we certainly had the majority of the field position, but we were trying to rush things too much. I thought some of the young guys really fronted up, so I'm pretty pleased with that. We've got 80 minutes [to play in the rematch], so let's see if we can get those 10 points and few more at home."
In a frosh-soph match following the First XV, California defeated Santa Rosa Junior College, 72-12, to bring the Golden Bears' season record to 11-0 overall (1-0 PAC Rugby Conference).
Prior to the first match of the day, a moment of silence was observed for four young people in the Bay Area community - including two members of the Oakland Warthogs and one from the Alameda Riptide youth rugby teams - who died earlier this week in a car accident during their return from the USA 7s in Las Vegas. Visit Cal Varsity Rugby on Facebook for a link to support the funeral and medical costs for victims of this tragedy.
With their first homestand complete following the reopening of Witter Rugby Field, the Bears resume their PAC Rugby Conference schedule next Saturday, Feb. 23, at UCLA, with a 1 p.m. kickoff on North Athletic Field against the Bruins. A reserve-grade match will follow the match between the Starting XVs in Los Angeles.
The Scoring Timeline vs. British Columbia:
17:00 Danny Barrett 5, Jake Anderson 2
36:00 Russell Webb 3
39:00 Jake Anderson 3
Halftime Score: California 13, British Columbia 0
48:00 UBC (Brock Staller) 3
50:00 Paul Bosco 5
55:00 Seamus Kelly 5
57:00 Anthony Lombardo 5
63:00 UBC (Brock Staller) 3
68:00 UBC (Ross Weymark) 5, (Brock Staller) 2
74:00 UBC (Brock Staller) 5
Final Score: California 28, British Columbia 18
The Team vs. British Columbia:
15. Anderson, 14. Tucker, 13. Kelly ©, 12. Braun (Coquillard @ 73:00), 11. Lombardo (Battaglia @ 68:00), 10. Webb, 9. Bosco (Boyer @ 73:00), 1. Mohr, 2. Hyjer, 3. Hurrell (Davenport @ 60:00), 4. De Nysschen, 5. Daly, 6. O'Beirne, 7. Gletzer, 8. Barrett
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