Bears tame Mustangs to clinch undefeated campaign

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Earlier in the week, Cal rugby coach Jack Clark said he was holding his breath with the mixed lineup he would trot out against Cal Poly on Saturday afternoon.

By halftime at Cal Poly Sports Complex, Clark was probably breathing easier.

In its final match of the regular season, Clark's battalion torched the Mustangs for nine unanswered tries in the first half en route to a 79-26 win in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

"Our goal for this game was to come out with full effort," senior flanker Jason Law said. "And if we were able to give 100 percent effort, that the rest would follow and we would end up being victorious."

The effort was apparent early when the Bears raced out to a 19-0 advantage in the first 15 minutes. Senior flanker Ryan Hodson bookended that stretch with his two tries.

"We had a big focus all week about our primary ball, especially in the lineouts and scrums, which we managed to do today," said Hodson, a senior on exchange from the University of Western Australia.

That intense scoring pace continued into the break, with junior wing James McTurk logging a hat trick in the game's first 27 minutes. McTurk, an exchange student from York, England, who has earned more playing time of late, notched his third try by running an interception back 96 meters for a score.

Senior Sean Gallinger also lit up the stats sheet in the frame, contributing 17 points. Though he usually starts at center, Gallinger played flyhalf and kicked the conversion attempts in the first half. The senior made six of nine attempts, including a conversion on his own try in the 31st minute.

The match served numerous purposes for the coaches - resting regular starters, getting some starters like Gallinger time at other positions, and testing players in competition for the last handful of spots on the postseason roster.

For Law, who is expected to be a key reserve down the stretch, it marked the first time he played a full game since going down with injury in mid-January, and his first opportunity to captain the team on the field.

Cal (24-0, 7-0 in the CPD) was unable to sustain its same level of dominance through the second frame. The shutout was lost five minutes into the second half when Cal Poly got on the board with a converted try.

Each team managed four tries in the final 40 minutes, with the Mustangs converting three of their tries while Cal only converted one.

"I don't think they were challenging us more than they were in the first half," Law said. "They're a very good team, they're physical and they're very good competitors.

"Second half, I think was more of us not reaching our full potential and what we wanted to do."

Despite a more evenly played second half, the Bears secured the convincing win they sought and closed the regular season with a perfect record. Maintaining that impeccable winning percentage, however, was not the most significant outcome of the match.

"I think that's kind of a sideline goal for the team," Law said. "I think more importantly, we just wanted to be victorious today so we could seal that first seed in the (CPD Pacific)."

With that win, the Bears now know their postseason destiny. Cal will choose the location of its May 7 quarterfinal match against the Mid-South region's No. 2 seed, Life University.


Christina Jones covers rugby.

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