Cal Shocks BYU | 2016 Final Recap

Cal Shocks BYU | 2016 Final Recap

by Brett Anker

Cal defeated BYU 40-29 in the final of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup to claim its first ever Varsity Cup title. After falling in the last three Varsity Cup finals to the Cougars, Cal overcame some tremendous obstacles to capture the title. The Golden Bears shattered BYU’s two year unbeaten streak and even more impressive, went in to Provo Utah and one on South Field, a place where BYU had never lost.

BYU got a perfect bounce on a short kickoff and nearly broke through in the opening seconds. The Cougars immediately got in the 22-meter line but Cal withstood the pressure and kicked out of trouble after a knock.

After several penalties sending possession back and forth, Cal nearly struck first. The Golden Bears stole the ball at the breakdown inside the BYU 22 and send it wide through the hands. Patrick Barrientes busted through a half gap but was brought down three feet from the line. Barrientes got to his feet but was held in the tackle and a penalty was awarded to the Cougars.

The home side faced some adversity early, losing captain Ara Elkington to a bloody eye and winger Kevin Schoefield to a head injury. Adding to the injury issues, BYU failed to reach touch on several penalties, giving Cal ample attacking opportunities. One of those penalties finally cost BYU. Scott Walsh picked up an unpressured knock and was taken down inside the 22. Cal sprung the ball left and outnumbered the BYU defense for a Lucas Dunne score. The conversion was missed and Cal led 5-0.

BYU continued to struggle with continuity but ultimately broke through 20 minutes in. Alex Vorster fended off a Cal tackler. He drew the fullback and offloaded to an oncoming Zach Weber for a try under the posts. Calvin Whiting nailed the kick to give BYU a 7-5 lead.

The Cougars started firing and got another try a few minutes later. Scrumhalf Luke Mocke backed himself with a dummy to gain a few meters. With a pair of tacklers on him, the South African popped a pass to number 8 Joe Pikula. The monster backrower busted through the line and off loaded to the recently returned Elkington for a 14-5 lead.

Cal stymied the BYU momentum at the 30-minute mark. Anthony Salabar broke a few tackles to get deep inside the BYU 22. Scrumhalf Nickolas Boyer picked and nearly found the edge, but with hands on him, popped the ball back inside to cutting winger Zachary Tavenner. The winger went in untouched to make the game 14-12.

The next scoring opportunity came when Vorster ran over a Cal player off a lineout. The ball went through hands but Cal’s Connor Sweet intercepted a pass near the goal line to save a try. The Cougars stayed inside Cal territory but a number of knock-ons prevented the Cougars from extending the lead. The game went into the break 14-12 in favor of BYU.

After several kicks exchanging possession to start the second half, BYU looked to be in trouble inside its own 22. The ball was bouncing around but Whiting scooped it up, overpowered a defender and busted through the Cal line to midfield. A high tackle penalty gave Whiting a chance at goal but the kicked missed left.

BYU struck first in the second minutes later, however. Off a scrum the Cougars broke through out wide and offloaded inside to Ryan Blaser. Blaser pushed his way over in the corner to extend the lead to 21-12.

The Cougars extended their lead minutes later. After a knock-on at the goal line prevented a try, Whiting added a penalty to increase the lead to 24-12.

Cal would not go away, however. Dunne found space out wide and after being tackled, BYU was pinged for a penalty. Boyer quick tapped and found Andrew Bush who broke a tackle and scored a try. Boyer missed the conversion and it was 24-19.

Turnovers hurt the Golden Bears minutes later. Cal coughed the ball up and the Cougars quickly spun the ball wide right. Fullback Tua Laei found spacer out wide and sprinted his way to the pylon for a 29-19 lead.

Cal misfired on several opportunities to score in the following minutes. Flyhalf Russell Webb missed a clear break with a poor pass and Boyer missed a penalty that would have cut it to a one score game.

The Bears finally broke though the 70th minute. Jake Goena nearly scored off a line out but was taken down just short. Cal recycled and spun the ball left to Anthony Salabar. BYU ran out of defenders and the big center walked in for the score. Russell Webb tallied the kick to cut the game to 29-26 with 10 minutes to play.

The boys from Berkeley took the lead nearly a minute later. Getting deep in BYU territory off a penalty, the Bears drover a maul near the goal line. Boyer picked off the back of the ruck and scored untouched to take a 33-29 lead.

The Golden Bears sealed the game with less than five minutes to play. Off a lineout once again, the visitors powered over the line via a maul with Boyer getting his second of the day.

Cal dominated BYU in the line out and that was really the difference in the second half. Overall, Cal capitalized on a number of BYU errors and dominated the final quarter of the game to capture its first Penn Mutual Varsity Cup title.

BYU vs. Cal | 2016 Championship Preview

BYU vs. Cal | 2016 Championship Preview

by Brett Anker

Cal and BYU will square off in the final of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup on Saturday at South Field on the Campus of BYU. The game will be aired live on the NBCSN at 4PM EST.

BYU and Cal have been the gold standard of collegiate rugby for several decades. The Cougars and the Bears had met in the post season twelve times before this encounter with 10 coming in national title bouts. The Bears have gotten the better of BYU historically, but the recent years have gone the way of the Cougar.

The Cougars and the Golden Bears have met in the finals of first three Varsity Cups with BYU slaying the Bears in all three contests. In the inaugural Varsity Cup, Cal battled back from a two score deficit only to lose to a drop goal from then freshman Johnny Linehan. Two years ago the Cougars dropped the Bears 43-33 and last year they edged the California school 30-27 at Rio Tinto Stadium.

The teams have faced a number of common opponents including, Army, Central Washington, Utah, Air Force, St. Mary’s and Arizona State. Both teams went undefeated against the common opponents but BYU had far more convincing victories against a number of them.

Cal understands the challenge ahead of them. It will be more difficult this year as the game returns to the BYU campus. The Cougars have never lost a game at South Field. With a talented and mature team, BYU will be the stiffest challenge of the year for Cal.

I imagine we will see a similar lineup to the one they used in the semi,” Clark said of BYU. “It is a very experienced team, well beyond normal university age. They will field a half-dozen or more players who graduated high school in 2009, a few more 2010 grads and at least one player who is a 2008 high school graduate. It is nothing new to us or any of the other teams in the competition. It is what comes with playing BYU.”

Cal will be without fullback Harry Adolphus, who was lost to injury in the quarterfinal matchup with Army. However, the Golden Bears have a lot of depth and with a strong pack, led by Scott Walsh and George Vrame up front, have the size and athleticism to match up with a strong BYU pack.

After winning the last three Varsity Cups, BYU is gunning for another victory. The Cougars have been firing on all cylinders and may have the best team they have had in years.

“This team this year is probably the most cohesive team we have had for as long as I have been here,” said assistant coach Wayne Tarawhiti. “The guys are just enjoying their rugby, enjoying each other’s company and having a lot of fun.”

The Cougars will look to continue their unbeaten streak that dates back to the spring of 2014. Playing at front of a home crowd adds a little excitement and motivation for the Utah school.

“It is a privilege to have it on campus. The crowd we have had for the last six years playing there has been our 16th man. They come out and support us and we are blessed to have it back home. We see it as a nice to have but never a guarantee,” Tarawhiti said of the home field advantage.

Despite playing at home, BYU is well aware of the rich tradition and history of Cal. The Cougars have spent the last two weeks gearing up for their toughest game of the year.

“We always have a genuine mutual respect for Cal. Those guys have been the benchmark of rugby for a number of years. We always look forward to playing them. We tend to play our best rugby when we play against them and are looking forward to that challenge again,” Tarawhiti added.

Cal Squeaks By Central Washington in Defensive Tussle

Cal Squeaks By Central Washington in Defensive Tussle

By Brett Anker
Photo Credit: Mikaela Raphael

With a Central Washington penalty hooking left as time expired, Cal advanced to its 4th consecutive Penn Mutual Varsity Cup final. The Golden Bears tallied two tries in the first half and with stout defense held on to win 14-13 in Strawberry Canyon.

Both squads had opportunities early inside the opposition five-meter lines but strong defense held them both off the score sheet. The excellent defense and a strong wind hampered both teams’ offensive capabilities all afternoon.

After Russell Webb missed a penalty inside the first 10 minutes, CWU fullback Ian Wright scampered in for the games opening score. Tanner Barnes made a line break and found the fullback with an offload. With the conversion, the Wildcats led 7-0 and took that lead deep into the first half.

“Tanner had a phenomenal day, and it was no doubt that he was the best player on the field,” CWU coach Tony Pacheco said. “He broke the line, drew the fullback and Ian followed right behind. It was a great way to start the match.”

Cal responded with 14 unanswered points late in the first half. The Golden Bears scored all of its points in a four-minute span with Patrick Barrientes and Russell Webb dotting down to take the lead. Webb converted both tries to give Cal a 14-7 advantage.

CWU looked to get even in the 36th minute but Clint Lemkus was held up in the in goal. On the following five-meter scrum, Cal prevented a score but committed a penalty nearly 40 meters out. The Wildcats missed the kick and Cal maintained the 14-7 advantage going into the break.

Neither team gave much in the second half. The only points either team was able to muster was a couple of penalties for Central Washington. The win played a factor in the second half, particularly with attempts at goal. Webb, who went 0-3 on penalties, missed early in the second half before Reuben Ludick nailed his first of the afternoon to cut the lead to 14-10.

“We didn’t capitalize on some of the things we had early on in the game,” said Cal back-rower Thomas Robles. “Lucky to come away with the win but, on that same page, we also put in a lot of effort and stood by each other.”

Webb mishit an attempt at goal two minutes later and until about 20 minutes left the game remained the same score. Ludick drilled a second penalty to make it a one-point contest with about 18 minutes left.

It became an uphill battle for the visitors inside the last quarter of the game as the Wildcats saw a player sent to the sin bin for a late hit. The Wildcats played tough despite being down a man, and in side the final five minutes looked to have gotten the game winning score. Aladdin Schirmer picked at the back of a 5-meter scrum and powered his way in but the Wildcats were pinged for a penalty. With less than five minutes to play Cal still led 14-13.

The Wildcats continued to fight, earning another penalty in the 76th minute. Ludick missed short and Webb cleared the ball. After stealing the ensuing lineout, Cal worked its way into the CWU 22. A not straight throw on a lineout, however, gave the visitors one last chance to steal the victory. Central Washington worked its way down field and the referee awarded a penalty for hands in at the ruck, Ludick lined up the kick but it hooked left and Cal came away with the victory.

“It’s such a great honor to play on this field, and to come out with a big win under a lot of pressure means the world,” added prop Scott Walsh. “It gives us a chance at the national championship.”

For Central Washington, who lost to Cal by a hefty margin two years ago in the same circumstances, it was an improved by disappointing result.

“I am really proud of how our team played, we did everything we could to win the game,” Pacheco added. “I felt like we were the better team out there today, unfortunately, things did not go our way.”

Cal will make its fourth straight appearance in the Varsity Cup final. The Golden Bears will travel to South Field on the campus of BYU to take on the undefeated Cougars.

The match will take place on May 7th and will be aired live on the NBCSN at 2PM MST/4PM EST.

2016 Semi-Final Match Schedule | April 23rd

2016 Semi-Final Match Schedule | April 23rd


The Varsity Cup Semi-Finals see Arkansas State heading to reigning champs BYU, and Cal will play host to CWU. Who will advance to earn a spot in this year’s national championship?

See the below for more information on the where and when the matches are being held and how you can watch remotely:

BYU vs. Arkansas State

– Location: South Field, BYU Campus, Provo, UT 84606
– Time: 1:00 PM MDT
– Webcast: Live on YouTube (

Cal vs. CWU

– Location: Witter Rugby Field, 210 Stadium Rim Way, Berkeley, CA 94704
– Time: 1:00 PM PDT

Cal vs. CWU | 2016 Semi-Final Preview

Cal vs. CWU | 2016 Semi-Final Preview

by Brett Anker

Cal will welcome Central Washington to Strawberry Canyon for the semifinals of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup. The Bears and the Wildcats met on Witter field for the same game in 2014 with Cal coming away with a 58-14 victory.

The Golden Bears overwhelmed Central Washington in 2014. Cal scored four tries in the first 20 minutes before Central Washington responded. The big lead was too much to overcome for CWU and Cal ran away with a 58-14 win.

“We are a far different team from that team. That team hadn’t really been battle tested. They didn’t play that tough of a schedule….To have those tough games to really let us know where we are, we are able to build of that and peak at the right time,” said CWU coach Tony Pacheco.

Discipline will be key for Central Washington. The Wildcats have started both Varsity Cup games with high penalty counts. After having three players in the sin bin simultaneously last week, the Wildcats will need to clean up their act. While Central Washington managed to hold Utah at bay with 12 men, Cal will be a much more difficult team to contain.

“How they choose to play is between them and the referee. My responsibility is to our team and how we conduct ourselves. Our focus needs to be on keeping our discipline and not getting drawn into foul play,” said Cal coach Jack Clark.

Central Washington has made the semifinals in each of the last three Varsity Cups. The Wildcats are hoping that this is the year they finally break through.

“We are excited to go to Cal and excited for the opportunity and for the guys that were on that team a few years ago,” Pacheco said of playing Cal. “There is definitely some redemption there in the back of our minds because we were not very happy with how we played.”

The Pacific Northwest school has deep and talented team this season. A pair of South Africans, Clint Lemkus and Darren Cooper, are recent additions to an already strong pack. Aladdin Schirmer and Vili Toluta’u are two of the better loose forwards in the country and could provide a challenge for Cal.

“They are real strong. They got some big, strong South African kids who are really good. They are a good team. They have been a good team. They have made it to the semis every year of the Varsity Cup and it is no surprise to anyone that they are in the semis again,” Clark said of CWU.

Cal will make a number of changes from the win over Army last weekend. Harry Adolphus, who had two tries as a sophomore against CWU, sustained an injury last week and will be out of action. While Adolphus is out, the Bears get two players back from injury. Patrick Barientes and Jake Goena will make there way back into the back line. Additionally, upperclassmen Connor Sweet, Drew Gaffney and Nick Salabar will make Cal a more experienced side this weekend.

The match with Army was a bit of a wake up call for Cal. The Golden Bears know they will have to improve to get the job done again this week.

“We are just going to have continue to get better throughout this week. Keep grinding,” match day captain Scott Walsh said after the Army win. “They are big, very skilled team. We played them before they have given us some good action before.”

The game will kickoff at 1PM PST.

Cal Prevails Over Tough Army Side

Cal Prevails Over Tough Army Side

by Brett Anker

Cal overcame an early first half deficit to defeat tough Army squad 41-29 in the quarterfinals of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup. A pair of late first half tries and a strong second half propelled the Golden Bears into the semifinals.

This contest was incredibly physical from the get go. Both packs refused to give in to one another throughout the course of the match, pummeling the fringes to create space for their respective backlines.

“We knew coming into this game that these were a lot of stout tough guys. We have nothing but the utmost respect for these guys and this university and so that we knew that they were going to be tough and stout. We had to prepare for that and they gave us a real physical game,” said Cal match day captain Scott Walsh.

Army got on the board first off a lineout inside the Cal 22. Flanker Andrew Irwin powered his way over after peeling off the back of a maul. The West Point set piece was excellent all afternoon, leading to a number of well-worked scores.

Cal bounced back after the Army score. The Bears monopolized possession for the next 10 minutes, pressing inside the Army 22. After making several goal line stands, the Black Knights defense finally broke, and Russell Webb scurried over for a 7-7 tie.

The ensuing kickoff bounced off the arms of a Cal player and immediately Army went into the ascendency. West Point attacked back and forth against the Cal defense and ultimately found an overload outwide and winger Joseph Dlugosch capped it off with a score in the corner.

Army added two more scores to increase the lead to 22-7 in the 33rd minute. Jake Lachina broke through the Cal line off a scrum. The speedy fullback went on one with the fullback. As he was being dragged down he offloaded to an oncoming Andrew Yoon for a score under the posts. Mitch Sanderson scored a forward’s try five minutes later to increase the lead.

“We were our own worst enemy for so much of the game. We had to really bare down to win the game,” said Cal coach Jack Clark. You give West Point a lot of credit for that. Army was strong and they played some good rugby.”

Cal righted the ship towards the end of the first half. Lachina made a tremendous tackle on the try line pulling his man into touch, but Cal’s Nic Mirhashem intercepted the lineout and dove over to cut the lead to 22-14.

The Golden Bears got on the board again right before halftime. Russell Webb kicked a turnover ball ahead. Anthony Salabar ran onto it and booted it ahead once more. The big center got a nice bounce and without breaking stride, scooped the ball and ran around the fullback. Lachina made a nice recovery tackle, and batted the ball backwards on an attempted offload. The ball bounced and Webb fell on it under the posts to make the game 22-21 going into the break.

Harry Adolphus gave Cal its first lead of the day shortly into the second half. The fullback nailed the conversion to give Cal a 28-22 lead.

Army struck back 10 minutes later via Andrew Borer. The fly half had a strong game distributing and with the boot, but this time he backed himself. Cutting back inside on the Cal defense, Borer slithered through under the posts to regain the lead for Army 29-28.

Cal slowly took over the game from this point on, however. The Golden Bears upped the intensity and speed of play. Even an extremely fit Army struggled to keep pace and eventually the defensive line broke. After passing up a number of kickable penalties, Connor Sweet powered his way over for what would turn out to be the game winning score.

In the 70th minute Cal got the insurance try it was seeking through Salabar. Army got deep in Cal territory in the final minutes but a turnover at the goal line stymied any chance of West Point coming back from the two score deficit. The Bears added a penalty at the death to finish 41-29.

Army gave Cal all it could handle and coach Matt Sherman was very positive about his team’s performance.

“I could not be more proud of this team. I have never been more proud of a team I have coached than these boys right now,” said Sherman. “This senior class, they are just outstanding in how much they have improved this year.”

Cal will move on to play Central Washington in the semifinals next weekend.

2016 Quarterfinal Match Schedule | April 16th

2016 Quarterfinal Match Schedule | April 16th


The Varsity Cup Quarterfinals are nearly upon us! There are some critical matchups tomorrow Sat., April 16th as Arkansas State, Army, BYU, Cal, CWU, Dartmouth, Navy, & Utah will do battle to see who earns at spot in the Semi-Finals.

See the below for more information on the where and when the matches are being held and how you can watch remotely:

Army vs. Cal

– Location: Anderson Rugby Complex, River Rd., West Point, NY 10996
– Time: 3:00 PM EDT
– Webcast: Army “Knight Vision” (

Dartmouth vs. BYU

– Location: Corey Ford Rugby Clubhouse, 9 Reservoir Rd., Hanover, NH 03755
– Time: 1:00 PM EDT
– Webcast: Live on YouTube (

Navy vs. Arkansas State

Location: Naval Academy Brigade Sports Complex, 64 Greenbury Point Rd., Annapolis, MD 21402
Time: 11:00 AM EDT

Utah vs. CWU

Location: Salt Lake Regional Sports Complex, 2280 N. Rose Park Lane, Salt Lake City, UT 84112
Time: 12:00 PM MDT
Webcast: KUTE Radio (

Army vs. Cal | 2016 Quarterfinal Preview

Army vs. Cal | 2016 Quarterfinal Preview

by Brett Anker

The University of California will travel to West Point to take on Army in the quarterfinals of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup. Both teams won handily in the first round of the Varsity Cup and are looking to continue the momentum.

The last time the Golden Bears played the Black Knights in a 15-aside match was in 2009. The teams met in the division I USA Rugby playoffs with the Golden Bears winning 42-17 to claim a spot in the 2009 final. Besides the 2009 semifinals, the clubs competed against each other in 7s at the Collegiate Rugby Championship, with Cal winning a pool play contest.

Prior to the 2009 contest, the teams met twice in consecutive national championships. In both 1991 and 1992, Cal defeated Army in tight contests to win the national title. The teams also met consecutively in the 2002 and 2003 playoffs with Berkeley claiming wins in both.

For a program of such rich tradition and history, however, this will be the first time that Cal travels to West Point. The Golden Bears are looking forward to the challenge and are excited at the prospect of playing on a storied campus.

“Army has always been a fierce opponent and we are expecting their best rugby,” said head coach Jack Clark. “It will be a privilege to visit West Point and we want to soak it all in.”

Adding intrigue to the match up is the fact that the first year head coach of Army was a co-captain on a Cal side coached by Clark. Matt Sherman participated in the 2002 and 2003 victories over West Point and more recently served as an assistant coach for the Bears. For Sherman, however, the focus is on preparing for a tough opponent.

“We are looking forward to the challenging opportunity that awaits us in Cal in round two of the Varsity Cup,” Army coach Matt Sherman told United World Sports. “Cal has set the bar for many years in the collegiate rugby landscape, and we welcome the opportunity to test ourselves against that high standard,”

Army has been playing extremely well of late. Picking up wins against Utah, Navy and Oklahoma. However, the Black Knights struggled against another top tier opponent in BYU, falling 72-10. This weekend will be a step up from the recent wins and Army knows that it will require a strong performance.

“It is a challenge, no doubt. Our focus will remain the same. Chasing our best performance. I think when we are playing at our top level we are very competitive to compete with most teams. For us the challenge will be the constancy and that standard. Can we find 80 minutes of that level? To be competitive with Cal that is what we need to do,” added Sherman.

The game kicks off at 3PM EST on Saturday.

Cal Crushes Texas In Varsity Cup Opener

Cal Crushes Texas In Varsity Cup Opener

by Brett Anker

The Cal Bears dominated Texas with an emphatic 138-0 victory over the Longhorns. The Golden Bears earned 22 tries in the rout and cruised to the second round of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup.

The Bears dotted down 11 times in the first half and took a 55-0 lead going into the break. Scrumhalf Nickolas Boyer scored a pair of tries and went four of seven on conversions. Karl Thornton and George Vrame each added two while Lucas Dunne, Jesse Milne and Connor Sweet each scored once.

The second half was not any tougher for the Bears. Despite bringing on a number of substitutes, Cal continued its torrid scoring pace. Zachary Tavenner scored four second half tries in the span of 11 minutes and Dunne added two more to get the hat trick. In all, Cal had twelve different try scorers.

Despite the drubbing, Texas continued to fight throughout the match.

“We’re really grateful to Texas for making the trip. It was hard on them but they were resilient throughout,” said head coach Jack Clark. “For 30 years these first-round matches have been more lopsided than everyone wants. So even more respect for the Longhorns seeing it through.”

Coming into the game, cal wanted to take over early. With five scores in the first 20 minutes, the Bears were able to bring on substitutes and get ready for a tougher opponent in Army next week.

“The goal was to advance and play well,” said matchday captain Nick Salaber. “The goal this week is work hard and set ourselves up to keep improving. Army is going to be a tough team.”

The Golden Bears will travel to West Point to take on Army next weekend.

2016 Opening Round Match Schedule | April 9th

2016 Opening Round Match Schedule | April 9th


Army vs. Oklahoma

Location: Anderson Rugby Complex, River Rd., West Point, NY 10996
Time: 3:00 PM EDT
Webcast: Army “Knight Vision” (

Arizona State vs. BYU

Location: ASU Poly Campus, 7001 E. Williams Field Rd., Mesa, AZ 85212
Time: 7:00 PM MST

Arkansas State vs. Clemson

Location: ASU Rugby Pitch, 501 Red Wolf Trail Rd., Jonesboro, AR 72401
Time: 1:30 PM CDT

Cal vs. Texas

Location: Witter Rugby Field, 210 Stadium Rim Way, Berkeley, CA 94704
Time: 12:00 PM PDT


Location: CWU Wildcat Rugby Field, Ellensburg, WA 98926
Time: 1:00 PM PDT
Webcast: Wildcat “Event Zone” (

Dartmouth vs. Penn State

Location: Corey Ford Rugby Clubhouse, 9 Reservoir Rd., Hanover, NH 03755
Time: 12:00 PM EDT
Webcast: Live on YouTube (

Navy vs. Notre Dame

Location: Naval Academy Brigade Sports Complex, 64 Greenbury Point Rd., Annapolis, MD 21402
Time: 12:00 PM EDT
Webcast: TBD

Utah vs. Air Force

Location: McCarthy Field, 76 S. Wasatch Dr., Salt Lake City, UT 84112
Time: 12:00 PM MDT
Webcast: KUTE Radio (