BERKELEY – In a Saturday of firsts, No. 1 California aims to clinch the first championship in the inaugural PAC Rugby Conference while alumni, fans and families celebrate Homecoming on Witter Rugby Field for the first time since 2010 as the Golden Bears host No. 8 Utah on March 30 at 1 p.m.
The last time they met, the Bears squeaked by the Utes, 23-22, at Rio Tinto Stadium in Salt Lake City on a penalty kick from 40 meters with no time remaining by fullback Jake Anderson. On Saturday, both teams have PAC title aspirations on the line.
Cal is in the PAC conference driver’s seat with a 4-0 record (17-0 overall). Although the Utes have one conference blemish, a 50-32 loss suffered March 9 at UCLA, Utah can also secure the PAC title with a big win over the Bears this weekend followed by another over Oregon State on April 13.
Even if Utah (7-3, 2-1 PAC) upsets the Bears, Cal can still clinch the conference on Saturday with a four-try effort and/or a final score seven points or less in favor of the Utes (see rankings and points system below).
A Utah win on Saturday could also open the door for the Bruins to be crowned PAC champions, a scenario that would require Cal to come away from Homecoming with nothing gained in points standings and UCLA to win its last two matches with bonus points at Arizona and Arizona State (schedule below).
In control of their conference destiny on a day that celebrates Cal’s 131-year history back on its home field, the Bears can easily be assumed to be primed for a perfect performance against Utah. But coming on the heels of an always-emotional trip to British Columbia and a little time off for spring break, Cal will once again be challenged to step up its game against a formidable foe.
For fans, Saturday marks one of the last opportunities to enjoy a home match in the spring 2013 season. The Bears will host Saint Mary’s in the resumption of that local rivalry to end the regular season on Saturday, April 13, at 1 p.m.
The Bears’ postseason is already set with the Varsity Cup, in which Cal faces Notre Dame in an April 20 super-regional showdown at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. The higher-seeded winner between that outcome and that of the Navy-Dartmouth super-regional will host a semifinal April 27, giving Cal and its fans one more possible home game in the postseason followed by the championship on May 4 in Provo, Utah.
After the Varsity Cup, Cal will compete in the Collegiate Rugby Championship 7s June 1-2 in Philadelphia.
PAC Rugby Conference Standings
Team W-L-T Points
California 4-0-0 20
UCLA 2-1-0 11
Utah 2-1-0 11
Oregon State 0-2-0 0
Arizona 0-2-0 0
Arizona State 0-2-0 0
(Points System: Win = 4 pts, Tie = 2 pts, Loss = 0 pts, Score 4+ Tries = 1 pt, Lose by 7 or less = 1 pt)