Bears Regain Dominant Form in Shutout of SDSU

Photo: Cal got off to a very quick start against the rival Aztecs on Saturday after struggling with UBC. The Bears had four tries and two conversions within the opening 25 minutes.
Tim Maloney/Photo
Cal got off to a very quick start against the rival Aztecs on Saturday after struggling with UBC. The Bears had four tries and two conversions within the opening 25 minutes.

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The sunny San Diego backdrop on Saturday afternoon was not the only contrast to the Cal rugby team's mucky shootout against British Columbia two weeks ago.

The Thunderbirds made the Bears play defense to grind out a come-from-behind victory. On Saturday against league rival San Diego State, coach Jack Clark's team seldom let go of the ball in a 95-0 rout.

Coming off a lackluster first half performance against UBC, senior Drew Hyjer said the Bears (16-0, 1-0 in the CPD) entered the contest against the Aztecs wanting to "blow them up" in the first 20 minutes.

By the end of the 25th minute, Cal had scored four tries and made two conversions, while making a pair of goal-line stands to keep San Diego State off the scoreboard at the Little "Q," a field adjacent to Qualcomm Stadium.

"We were more physical today," Clark said of the team's performance. "I was happy to see us play with just a little more determination to put a physical stamp on the game."

The Bears lit up the Aztecs for 55 points in the first half on nine tries, tacking on six more after the intermission.

Co-captain Derek Asbun singlehandedly scored more tries on Saturday than the Bears managed collectively against the Thunderbirds, finding the try zone four times. His final two tries came a mere three minutes apart.

"They were really team tries, to be honest," Asbun said. "That was just all the forwards pushing hard."

Senior flyhalf James Bailes said it was the "best 80 minutes" the forwards have played thus far. Clark juggled his forwards rotation, adding senior Ryan Hodson as a fourth forward in the back row instead of lock/flanker Brendan Daly.

A complete game effort was a good sign for Cal, which has previously struggled to play consistently in both halves.

"I think we had a pretty good work rate today," Clark said. "We didn't really fall off of it for any length of time."

Asbun was among three Bears to score multiple times, with senior flyhalf/center Sean Gallinger and sophomore center Seamus Kelly each chipping in two scores. Notably absent was Asbun's fellow co-captain, Blaine Scully, who sat out on Saturday after an injury forced him off the pitch against UBC.

Going into the match, the Bears were uncertain about the type of game the Aztecs would play under first-year coach Craig Hartley. When Cal product Matt Sherman was on the coaching staff the past two years, San Diego State's systems were very similar to the ones Clark employs.

Hartley, who has no connection to the Bears, ran different systems, but the Aztecs' toughness was the same this past weekend.

"They have some athletic guys that run pretty hard, especially in their backs," Clark said. "We were asked to make some tackles against some strong, athletic men. We were up for being physical."


Christina Jones covers rugby. Contact her at [email protected]

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