by Brett Anker
Cal started the defense of its Penn Mutual Varsity Cup title with a decisive 71-5 victory over Clemson. The Golden Bears jumped out to a 50-0 halftime lead as they cruised to victory in South Carolina.
Clemson battled for the first 15 minutes, causing Cal to commit a series of penalties and knock-ons. The Bears, however, still managed to find the try zone twice in the first five minutes to take an early 12-0 lead. Anthony Salaber scored the first of his three tries on the afternoon and Miles Hones scored the second to give Cal the early lead.
The Tigers hung tough for the next 12 minutes but a well read intercept from flyhalf Russell Webb got Cal its third score of the game, a try under the posts. The Bears added a try a little more than midway through the first half and once again Clemson had a good spell of possession.
Clemson fought hard to stay in the match but the overall size and speed of Cal ultimately wore them down. Things began to unravel in the 34th minute as Cal added four tries in the final six minutes of the half to go up 50-0 at halftime, including two from Salaber to complete the hat trick.
“Our game plan opened up some gaps inside and we were able to recycle the ball and move it out,” said Salaber.
The Bears continued their dominance with two quick tries to start the second half. Jake Goena and Sam Cusano found the try zone and by minute 50, Cal began rolling on the substitutes.
“There were stretches where we played really well,” said Number 8 Drew Gaffney. “When things were clicking, we played quick and were all on the same page.”
Clemson battled for the final 20 minutes only yielding one try. The Tigers finally broke into the scoreboard in the final minute scoring a try to close out the game at 71-5.
Cal will host Penn State in the semifinals next week.