Bears get hat trick from Coleman, slug Santa Cruz

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When people speak of the New York native on the Cal rugby team, sophomore Seamus Kelly's name is usually on their lips.

On Sunday it was lock Patrick Coleman who made a name for himself.

The freshman from Brooklyn, N.Y., logged his first collegiate hat trick in the Bears' 87-24 victory over UC Santa Cruz. After a dormant winter, Coleman, a high school teammate of Kelly's, shined on Cal's mostly frosh-soph side in Santa Cruz, Calif.

"Coleman definitely stood out," match-day captain Jose Pena said. "He took leadership in the forwards ... He was talking a lot to the pack, and that was helping me out."

He wasn't the only one to take a giant leap forward in the Bears' pummeling of the Slugs.

The Cal squad that featured 14 underclassmen starters made a strong resurgence after struggling in its past two contests against Sierra College and Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Bears (23-0, 6-0 in the CPD) dotted 13 tries on Santa Cruz in their highest scoring underclassmen game of the year.

The two teams exchanged converted tries in the first seven minutes, then Cal quickly countered with two additional scores to take a 21-7 lead. The Slugs (4-4) cut into the deficit with a penalty kick, but they did not hang around for long. The Bears proceeded with six unanswered scores.

"At first, people were a lot more quiet, it was like butterflies in the stomach," Pena said. "At the end, we started to get the nitty gritty stuff together ... We were able to just fix that because of the communication we had."

Santa Cruz scrapped for two more tries toward the end of the game, but Cal wasn't going to cruise until the final whistle blew either. Coleman responded with his third try, and his teammates tacked on three more for the 63-point victory.

The young Bears' commendable performance could not have come at a better time. With the postseason beginning on May 7 and the 23-man roster not officially set, some underclassmen made their case for playing time in more consequential games.

Fullback Josh Tucker talked earlier in the week about the need to "put on a clinic" in this game to make a statement to the coaches. The sophomore made the most of his start on Sunday, finding the try zone twice.

Sophomore Brad Harrington, who put the game's first points on the board, caught the eye of his captain. The center played a key role in facilitating many of Cal's tries, according to Pena.

The players said they were pleased they took a step forward as a unit, but have yet to equal their execution from an 85-0 victory over Cal Maritime on Feb. 9.

"I don't think we're back at that form yet," Coleman said. "That game, we played really well. Not too many mistakes, still making too many mistakes right now."

Santa Cruz made the Bears pay for its miscues, scoring two of its three tries off interceptions. Luckily for Cal, its offense was able to more than compensate for the mistakes. The underclassmen have one reserve grade match remaining next weekend.


Christina Jones covers rugby.

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