Cal stays perfect despite test from Gaels

Photo: Blaine Scully scored three of the Bears' nine tries against St. Mary's.
Michael Gethers/Staff
Blaine Scully scored three of the Bears' nine tries against St. Mary's.

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Cal Rugby vs. Saint Mary's

California defeated St. Mary's, 60-34, this past Sunday giving them the top stop in the Pacific Region.

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Correction Appended

MORAGA, Calif. - Being chased down by some St. Mary's defenders near the left corner of the try zone, junior Danny Barrett left his feet. The Cal rugby team's starting No. 8 leapt across the goal line to score, giving the Bears a 46-15 advantage in the 55th minute.

It was Cal's third unanswered try as it burst out in the second half en route to a 60-34 win.

After playing the Bears to a 15-15 tie in the 33rd minute, the Gaels just couldn't quite catch the Bears, who jumped ahead of St. Mary's to stand alone atop the CPD Pacific.

The Gaels are technically still alive for the division's No. 1 seed. They would need to win their remaining two CPD games by four or more tries, and Cal would have to lose to Cal Poly on April 23.

With Sunday's win at Pat Vincent Memorial Field, the Bears (22-0, 6-0 in the CPD) put themselves in position to clinch the Pacific's top seed, but they were not in the driver's seat throughout the match.

For just the fourth time this season, Cal didn't capture the first points of the game. The Gaels, with a 30-meter penalty kick in the second minute, joined British Columbia and UCLA as the only squads to pull ahead.

"(The Gaels) were coming in hard and fast in those rucks, and we struggled a bit to get up to that speed and match that in the first half," match day captain Derek Asbun said.

The Bears were able to match St. Mary's playing style for large parts of the game, but that was not Cal's objective. The Gaels are known for their fast and "adventurous" play, in the words of Asbun, whereas the Bears prefer a more structured game plan.

That scattered style led to more ball-handling errors and turnovers than the squad is accustomed to committing.

"I think as soon as we went into scramble mode where it's very wide and they were breaking a lot, we went off our things a bit," senior flyhalf James Bailes said.

The tense first half ended with Bailes converting his own try for a 25-15 lead, and the momentum extended into the second frame.

After some back-and-forth play, Barrett and Tom Rooke scored tries within a minute of each other, both set up by breakout runs.

The Bears managed two more scores before St. Mary's (14-3, 4-1) stopped the bleeding and managed back-to-back converted tries. With 12 minutes remaining and a 24-point deficit, it was simply too late for the Gaels.

"We know they're a really scrappy team," Asbun said. "They weren't going to give up at all regardless of the scoreline ... Really hard team, really physical, quick, and they really deserved all the points they got today."

Nonetheless, the Bears were less than pleased with their defensive effort as they struggled to finish their tackles.

The physicality was there for both sides, however, and the Gaels proved to be worthy competition. St. Mary's put up more points than any of Cal's previous opponents, and played the Bears closer than the 26-point spread indicated.

"Knowing that you can match a quality team like this, especially their style and that we can scramble defense and stuff like that, going forward it's always a good thing," Bailes said.


Correction: Wednesday, April 13, 2011
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Cal rugby team had clinched the No. 1 seed in the CPD Pacific.

The Daily Californian regrets the error.

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

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