Cal toppled Penn State 35-14 to head to the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup final. The Golden Bears jumped out to a 20-0 halftime lead and kept a determined Penn State team at bay to make it back to the Varsity Cup final in two weeks.
Neither team got on the board in the first 20 minutes, with the Nittany Lions matching the physicality and pace of the Bears. However, the home side opened the scoring midway through the first half via scrumhalf Keanu Andrade. The Bears would add three more first half tries, with seniors Kevin Sullivan and Patrick Barrientes finding pay dirt.
Penn State got on the board early in the second half with a try from flanker Malcolm May. At 20-7, Penn State hoped to rally, but Cal responded within minutes to quell any chance of a comeback. Jake Goena dotted down and six minutes later Andrade got his second to extend the lead to 30-7.
“Cal did a great job, they had the physicality and execution, and they capitalized on any mistakes,” said Penn State head coach James Willocks.
The Bears got a solid performance from a pair of underclassmen. Andrade scored two tries and facilitated the offense while fellow freshman prop Damon Wiley added two scores of his own. After Penn State scored its second try to make the game 30-14, Wiley put the final nail in the coffin late in the game. Both freshman have been strong all season and came up big in the semifinals.
“To come out and play for all the seniors was just amazing,” said Wiley. “The energy and tenacity was there, and we knew Penn State was going to be physical as well. It’s up to us to keep that pace through an entire 80 minutes.”
Overall, it was a solid performance for the Bears. It was the final home game for several Cal mainstays and fitting end to their stay at Cal with a well-executed win. Anthony Salaber and Russell Webb, both fifth year seniors, have been involved in every Varsity Cup to date and will finish their careers trying to capture a second consecutive title.
“It means the world to have the opportunity to play for a spot in the final in front of our families and friends,” said inside center Anthony Salaber. “It’s a feeling we all have as graduating seniors but you could really see the young guys really getting after it too.”
Cal will not have to travel very far to play in the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup final. The Golden Bears will take on Arkansas State at Stevens Stadium on the campus of Santa Clara University on May 6.
Cal will welcome Penn State to Witter Field for the semifinals of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup. The teams have met in the national post season four prior times but Penn State’s trip to Strawberry Canyon will be the first since 2001.
The last time Cal and Penn State played in 15s came during the 2013 campaign. The Bears won that game scoring a whopping 15 tries in the process. The teams last met in the post-season in 2010, a quarterfinal game that Cal won 61-19.
The Bears come into the match after a strong 71-5 victory over Clemson. Cal wore down a passionate Clemson side and ended up sewing up the win before halftime.
The home side will feature a similar starting lineup, a mix of upper classmen and younger players. Russell Webb and Anthony Salaber will lead the way in the backs while Kevin Sullivan will spearhead a young front row in the forwards. For these three, it will be the last time they play on their home pitch.
“The opportunity to play on Witter Rugby Field one last time is a great honor,” said Salaber. “I know we’re going to out everything we have into it.”
Penn State will have a tall task if its wants to make its first ever Varsity Cup final. The Nittany Lions will have to travel across the country and defeat an impressive Cal team. Although it will be difficult, Penn State is excited for the opportunity.
“What a great opportunity to play one of the most prestigious programs in the country,” Willocks added. We sat down early on in the season to put our goals in place and these were games we talked about the semifinals and finals that we need to prepare to get ourselves into. We have done that and it is a credit to our guys.”
The Nittany Lions come off two impressive wins in the Varsity Cup. The visitors have scored points in droves this year and are firing on all cylinders at the moment. Led by a group of talented seniors, Penn State is finding its stride at the right time. Nevertheless, Willocks indicated that it would take a certain kind of game to match the explosive Cal team.
“We have got to be very buttoned up in our approach because they will capitalize on any mistakes we make. We have to match them physically and our execution is going to have to be on point,” analyzed Willocks.
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.
Cal will begin its quest to defend the 2016 Penn Mutual Varsity Cup title when it travels to Clemson to take on the Tigers on Saturday.
The Golden Bears come into the match at 14-3. Cal lost a couple of tough games to the University of British Columbia and fell to St. Mary’s in its final tune up prior to the Varsity Cup. The Bears are anxious to avenge that loss to the Gael’s and have been working hard in preparation for the Varsity Cup.
“We are coming off a disappointing outing at St. Mary’s where I did not think we played very well,” said Cal coach Jack Clark. “That being said, we had the game in hand but we did not finish.”
The reigning champs have been hard at work in order to defend their title. After losing a number of seniors to graduation, the Bears are witnessing the maturation of a number of young players. Cal will start a number of freshman and sophomores, particularly in the forward pack.
“I think we have been preparing very well. We have had some double day sessions and our level of play is improving,” Clark added.
The Bears will finally reap the reward of the hard work. Coach Clark indicated that the playoffs are the most exciting time of the year and his team is excited to test themselves under post-season pressure.
“Now is time for the fun stuff. It is a single elimination tournament, win or go and that is incredibly fun. This is an exhilarating part of the year,” Clark concluded.
Clemson comes into the match after an emotional 36-29 victory over Dartmouth. In front a large alumni crowd, the Tigers needed a second half comeback to dispatch a feisty Big Green.
The Tigers are happy with the victory over Dartmouth but know facing the top seeded Bears will be a much more difficult task. Coming off the emotional high of alumni weekend, Clemson will need to up its game in order to compete with the likes of Cal.
“Cal is a team with a couple of great coaches with a group of very disciplined players. Cal and Dartmouth are very similar in that very good coaches lead them. Now we get to play a larger version of Dartmouth so power and size and strength are not going to be an advantage for us this week,” said Clemson coach Steve Lynch.
Lynch indicated that his team will need to be creative to match Cal but is excited for the challenge. Hosting a storied program on campus will be tough, but he suggested making them out to be more than human would only make the game tougher.
“Our guys understand how exciting this game is and the fact that we get to host them at Clemson is awesome. What we cannot do is turn this game into a David and Goliath story where David is afraid,” Lynch said of the game.
Clemson has played the likes of Life, Lindenwood and Arkansas State in the DIA Mid-South. The Tigers will hope that experience will benefit them come Saturday.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.