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.

Central Washington Pulls Away From Utah in Varsity Cup

Central Washington Pulls Away From Utah in Varsity Cup

by Brett Anker

Central Washington hammered Utah 58-5 to advance to the semifinals of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup semifinals. After two years in a row of close contests in the quarterfinals, the Wildcats ran away with the 2016 contest to claim its 3rd consecutive win over Utah.

Despite winning the game handily, the match got off to a rocky start for Central Washington. Utah played the first 20 minutes of the match inside the CWU 22. A number of penalties resulted in the referee going to his wallet on multiple occasions. For roughly seven minutes of the half, the Wildcats played with 12 men on the field. Nonetheless the Central Washington defense didn’t break.

“I really commend our guys for playing fantastic defense against a quality opponent when we were down a few members in the first half,” CWU Head Coach Tony Pacheco said. “It was a gutsy gutsy performance by the 12 who were on the field. We have to be better with our discipline, so we do not put ourselves in these types of situations.”

After weathering the storm, Central Washington struck first through Aladdin Schirmer. Clint Lemkus added the second, while Scott Dean and Dominic Lindstrom each tallied their first of multiple on the day. At half, the Wildcats led 26-0.

“It was just a matter of us getting our hands on the ball,” Pacheco added. “For the first 20 minutes we defended the entire time, and were in survival mode. When we were able to get back to full strength and get our hands on the ball, we carried very well. There was a lot of support all over the field and were able to maintain possession and score tries,”

The Wildcats exploded for five more tries in the second while Utah only managed a single score. CWU dominated in the scrum, disrupting Utah ball, and providing a platform for the backline. Dean needed no other invitation as he dotted down two more times in the second half to complete the hat trick.

“We were able to give him a lot of front foot ball… and when we were on the front foot they just were not able to transfer across the field quick enough. He was able to take a couple gaps and score a couple nice tries,” Pacheco said of Dean.

Central Washington will travel to Strawberry Canyon to take on Cal 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 (

Utah vs. CWU | 2016 Quarterfinal Preview

Utah vs. CWU | 2016 Quarterfinal Preview

by Brett Anker

Central Washington will travel to the University of Utah for the second round of the Penn Mutual Varsity. The Wildcats and the Utes have faced each other in each of the last two Varsity Cup quarterfinals with CWU coming out on top in both.

In 2014, a last second penalty from Josh Bower staved off an upset from Utah. Bower nailed a penalty from roughly 40 meters out to win 25-24. Last year the Wildcats won more comfortably, but it was still a competitive 18-7 match.

Utah and Central Washington are no strangers. For years they played each of in the Pacific Coast playoffs and after facing off in the last two Varsity Cup’s, the school’s are very familiar with one another. Nonetheless, CWU coach Tony Pacheco believes that both squads have changed over the last couple of seasons and the game could be vastly different from year’s prior.

“We know each other well obviously, being matched up for the last couple of year,” Head coach Tony Pacheco said. “I think having seen how we’ve played, I think we’re a different team from last year and Utah the same. I think it’s going to be about those 80 minutes and not so much about our previous matchups.”

Coach Pacheco stressed the importance of showing up and playing for a full 80 minutes. Utah is battle tested and takes advantage of mistakes. In a close contest, that could be the difference.

“It’s very much ‘what you see is what you get’ from them,” Pacheco added. “They run hard, they tackle hard, they scrum hard. Everything they do is 100 percent and they are on the job for 80 minutes. So if you switch off mentally and miss your assignment they will take advantage of it. This tournament is about us getting better throughout, that’s the next step. We have to be better this week than we were last week if we want to advance.”

Utah survived a scare last weekend. The Utes nearly gave up a two score advantage with less than 10 minutes to play. Despite a majority of the team being under the weather due to a flu circulating through the squad, Utah bounced back to win the game in the waning moments.

For Utah, it is always about consistency. Although coach Pacheco stressed that Utah comes to play all the time, Utah struggled to put together complete games all season. Coach Jon Law thinks Utah cannot afford to many mistakes if they are going to come away with a win against CWU.

“It is always a battle with Central Washington. If you look back at the games that we have played the last couple of years, they have been really exciting rugby, well matched pretty even,” said Law. “With us being down a little bit this year, not really having all the horses in the stable, we are going to have to play a nearly flawless game to make it competitive.”

The game will kickoff at 1PM PST.

Strong Second Half Propels CWU Over UCLA

Strong Second Half Propels CWU Over UCLA

by Brett Anker

Central Washington used a strong second half to get by UCLA 44-15 in the first round of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup. After going into the break tied, the Wildcats scored in the opening seconds of the second half and several times more in quick succession to eliminate the Bruins.

The first half was very much a back and forth affair. In his first game in a Wildcat uniform, Darren Cooper found pay dirt five minutes in to give CWU the early lead. Ten minutes later, the Bruins got on the board with a penalty but Korbin Lindell got the second try for CWU to extend the lead to 10-3. Seb Sharpe responded for UCLA, however, earning a try and evening the game at 10-10.

Due to a heavy wind, Central Washington could not play an expansive game in the first half. Combined with a high penalty count, and poor play at the breakdown, the Wildcats could not muster any more points.

“We were playing into the wind in the first half. The game plan was a little more restricted. Kind of keep things in tight and just really just be patient and maintain possession and keep them off the score sheet,” said CWU coach Tony Pacheco. “To be honest, UCLA were better over the ball than us in the first half.”

The second half could not have started any better for the Wildcats, though, as UCLA let the kickoff bounce deep its in own territory. Dom Lindstrom capitalized on the mistake diving in for the score less than 10 seconds into the half.

“I’ve been part of rugby for quite a while now and I haven’t seen a kick quite like that,” Pacheco noted. “That’s a hustle play by Dom there, he’s the kick chase guy on that and he got in the right spot.”

Lindstrom notched his second minutes later off a failed kick to touch. Ian Wright got the third try of the half off a counter attack assisted by Seth Halliman and Tanner Barnes scored right after that to increase the lead to 37-10. In less than 12 minutes, CWU tallied four tries and broke away from UCLA.

Clint Lemkus added the fifth Wildcat try of the half before UCLA stemmed the momentum with a try. It was too little too late, however, and CWU added one more for good measure to seal the match.

Central Washington will play the University of Utah 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 (

CWU vs. UCLA | 2016 Opening Round Preview

CWU vs. UCLA | 2016 Opening Round Preview

Central Washington will host the UCLA Bruins for a quarterfinals matchup in Ellensburg, Wash. on April 9th. The Wildcats have reached the semifinals in each of the last three years, but a very strong UCLA side will be looking to upend the northwestern school.

The Wildcats come in to the game having played a unique schedule this season. After plowing through the NCRC for the last several years, Central Washington elected to play an independent schedule this season. The Wildcats racked up convincing wins over several northwestern colleges and local club teams in an on and off schedule this spring.

The home side comes in with a 10-3 record overall, however, falling to Olympic Club 19-15, BYU 58-27, and the University of Victoria out of Canada 27-22. The Wildcats come into this match having lost their last two games and with a match against Air Force on April 2nd being cancelled, will have not played a match since March 23rd.

“I think that game being cancelled was really unfortunate. We could have really used it, just to make sure we are not under fit for the Varsity Cup,” said CWU coach Tony Pacheco. “One good thing from that is though we will be going in pretty healthy and at full strength.”

When healthy, CWU is a potent team. The Wildcats have a big and athletic forward pack that is spearheaded by captain Vili Toluta’u and Aladdin Schirmer. The former has a tremendous work rate as an openside flanker and the latter leads from his number 8 position. Schirmer, who has had a stint on the HSBC World Series and is a part of the 50 player squad at the upcoming Eagles Elite Training Squad, is deadly off the back of the scrum and active all over the field.

“He leads from the front and by example. He has just been an inspirational type player,” Pacheco said of his captain.

In the back line, CWU gets back the explosive Tanner Barnes, who missed most of last year due to injury. Complementing the center is the recent USA 7s debutant Seth Halliman.

“He is shaped up into form and has been a pretty good player for us. Having his ability and leadership in the back line has really helped,” Pacheco said of Barnes. “(Halliman) adds a piece we were missing in our back line in terms of a guy who can really shift the ball out and find the ball in phase play.”

For UCLA, it will be a tough challenge but one that the Bruins believe they are prepared to handle. With a tough PAC schedule that included a tough loss to Cal and a strong victory over Utah, the Bruins feel their schedule has set them up nicely for a tough CWU side.

“We are looking forward to it. We have been fortunate to have played really good teams all season in the PAC Conference and expect nothing less than to run into an excellent team in the first round,” UCLA coach Scott Stewart told United World sports.

The Bruins finished 9-2 this season and 4-1 in PAC play. However, the last game UCLA played was on March 3rd, the win over Utah. After giving the guys a break to focus on their studies, UCLA held a training camp to prepare for the match.

“We had our exam period and we brought the guys back and had a camp, a private camp for our training squad. This week we are back to school and we are having a normal week. We have been pretty active in trying to maintain our focus on this game,” Stewart added.

UCLA features a balanced attack. Zach Bonte ,Pierre Courpron and Andrew Alex have been mainstays in the UCLA pack the last several years while Seb Sharpe and captain Niall Barry in the back line.

Although UCLA has an experience and well-tested team, it will be a tough ask to win on the road. For Stewart, it will require a complete effort.

“The key is to play for 80 minutes. Central Washington is not afraid to play. They will run and take the game to you anywhere on the field and you have to be ready for that,” Stewart concluded.

Semi-Final Recap: BYU Prevails Over Scrappy CWU

Semi-Final Recap: BYU Prevails Over Scrappy CWU

In Provo, Utah, BYU defeated a scrappy Central Washington side, 35-8 to advance to the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup championship. The Cougars used a strong second half performance to outlast a tough Wildcat team.

Central Washington hung tough in the early stages of the game, controlling a decent amount of ball possession. The Wildcats earned a penalty inside the BYU 22 but the kick went wide right.  BYU got on the board first after a kick from inside the CWU 22 failed to reach touch and BYU broke through the CWU line on the counterattack. After several offloads, Johnny Linenhan dotted down untouched in the corner for a 5-0 lead. The conversion sailed wide.

The Wildcats responded nicely, however, swinging the ball down the right sideline. The visitors gained chunks of territory and after exhausting the right sideline swung the ball left and outflanked the BYU defense to tie the game at five.

BYU retook the lead in the 20th minute after the Whippy brothers, Joshua and Jared Whippy teamed up to break through the line and dot down next to the post. Jared scored the try and was a force all afternoon. The big center made a number of line breaks on the afternoon. Fortunate for Central Washington, however, his twin Joshua left the game in the 32nd minute.

After the conversion, the Cougars led 12-5 and with another Linehan penalty increased the lead to 15-5 going into the break. CWU struck first in the second half, adding a penalty to make it a one try game. BYU put on the clamps, however, shutting out CWU the rest of the way. BYU coach David Smyth was very proud of his team’s defensive performance.

Both teams had great defense, but BYU played really well and kept CWU at bay most of the time,” said David Smyth, BYU rugby head coach. “Even when our players were hurt they turned in a winning performance. Nothing stands between us now and the final championship game.”

Number 8 Joe Pikula scored off a five-meter penalty, barely squeezing over the line. Linehan added another penalty to increase the lead to 25-8. Ara Elikington sealed the game with an intercepted pass he took to the house and Ryan Blaser added the final score of the match in the 65th minute to win 35-8.

Central Washington’s front line was strong,” Linehan said. “Our forwards and backs communicated really well throughout the match allowing several us Cougars to score.”

Celebrating the program’s 50th anniversary, in their final home game of the season, the Cougars played in front of a number of alumnae and fans. Both Linehan and Smyth appreciated the support of playing in front of large crowd of supporters.

Being able to play at South Field with our loyal crowd helped us big time,” said Linehan.  Smyth added, “We want to thank everyone who has contributed to this team’s legacy and made BYU rugby what it is today. Whether current team members, past players or fans, we couldn’t do it without you.”

BYU will take on Cal at Rio Tinto Stadium for the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup championship on May 2nd. The game will be aired live on the NBC Sports Network.