Cal Rugby stays undefeated after beating St. Mary's in regular season finale
Cal Rugby, the top seed in the West, could fittingly win the school's 100th team national title by the end of April
Don’t tell Cal’s Jason Severance, but No.1 California Golden Bears (12-0) was able to stay undefeated in a close victory this past Saturday over East Bay rival No.2 Saint Mary’s (9-1). The Bears needed to come back from a halftime deficit to win 31-24 over the Gaels, avenging last year’s loss when the Bears only played three matches in an atypical season.
The Pac-12 Network had the game, and you can watch the exciting highlights below.
The Bears struck first with senior Nathan Zylstra scoring a try, conversion good, just 6 minutes in, but SMC answered with two tries and good conversions. Senior Jason Severance got the match tied with his try, conversion good by junior Nate Salter (3/5 on the day). But the Gaels found the try zone on the outside, tough conversion no good, to take a 19-14 halftime lead.
Just like the first half, Cal quickly scored a try, this time from sophomore Charlie Walsh, just 4 minutes into the second half. After SMC retook the lead with a try in the 53rd minute, the Bears were able to keep the Gaels out of the try zone. Tries by senior Jack Manzo and sophomore Emilio Shea made it a 7-point (still one possession) lead until the Bears were able to play the time possession game and end the match when SMC committed a turnover in stoppage time.
After the win, Cal’s Jason Severance talked about how he is going to act like Cal had lost this game to push himself and the rest of the Cal side to perform better and better.
"As usual, I'm proud of our guys," head coach Jack Clark said. "Obviously, the Gaels are among the top teams in the nation. There wasn't much between the two teams. It was always going to be a win by a little, lose by a little contest. A good regular-season match, nothing more really. We want to immediately turn the page towards the postseason."
In front of a packed crowd at Witter Rugby Field, the Bears and the Gaels fought hard for the full 80 minutes. Somewhat unusually, Cal only made two substitutions in this match so that 13 of the starting 15 played the full 80+ minutes of highly competitive rugby.
"The real winner today was collegiate rugby," Jack Clark commented. "Fantastic crowd, parking lot tailgates, university band, TV broadcast. Both of these rugby programs are vested in building our sport."
Cal’s next match will be on Saturday, April 16 at Witter Rugby Field for the National Collegiate Championship Quarterfinals. As the top seed in the West, Cal will host the winner between Central Washington (Cal defeated 48-19 in a regular match) or Cal Poly (Cal defeated 33-3 in a shortened 15s match).
Only on Friday, April 1st did the Men’s D1A Rugby postseason bracket finally got revealed. BYU and Arizona will battle for the right to face Saint Mary’s in the quarterfinals. Out East, Army and Lindenwood are the top two seeds with Life, Navy, Texas A&M, and Arkansas State also making the playoffs.
While the official release did not explicitly say so, one would think that the higher seed will be hosting the national semifinal match. By beating SMC Gaels in the regular season, Bears probably earned themselves important home-field advantages until the championship final.
It was announced two weeks ago that Aveva Stadium in Houston, Texas will host the Collegiate Rugby Championships on Saturday, April 30th. The entire final, including the D1A competition that includes Cal, will be streamed for free online on what is called “The Rugby Network”.
With Cal recently picking up their 99th team national championship (men’s swimming), it will be rather fitting if Cal Rugby, the most successful Cal Athletics program (28 Rugby 15s, 26 in the competition recognized by D1A Rugby and 2 in Varsity Cups, and 5 Rugby 7s titles), ends up winning the 100th national title in school history.
ROLL ON YOU BEARS!