Cal holds back Eagles in quarterfinals

Photo: The Cal rugby team advanced to the national semifinals against Utah with a 43-10 victory over the Life University Running Eagles on Saturday in Moraga, Calif.
Michael Gethers/File
The Cal rugby team advanced to the national semifinals against Utah with a 43-10 victory over the Life University Running Eagles on Saturday in Moraga, Calif.

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For chiropractors, applying just the right amount of pressure is essential to yielding desired results.

Despite straining the Cal rugby team at times, Life University could not press hard enough to break the Bears' backs.

The chiropractic college from Marietta, Georgia, sent 23 student-athletes of its 727-person student body to Moraga, Calif., to battle Cal in Saturday afternoon's national quarterfinal match.

The upstart Running Eagles hung with the Bears physically, but were ultimately toppled by a veteran Cal squad, 43-10, at Pat Vincent Field.

It was not a pretty win for the Bears, who succumbed to sloppy play under pressure from Life.

"We just didn't play to our potential," coach Jack Clark said. "We need to demonstrate some overachievement and some real hunger."

Life looked hungry right out of the gates, spending the first five minutes of the match near the Bears' try zone. However, the team came away with nothing after a missed penalty kick. Cal (25-0, 7-0 in the CPD) regained possession and scrapped together a try dotted down by senior hooker Neill Barrett for the game's first points.

"You're resilient for five minutes and then you go turn around and score a try, it changes the whole flow of the game," match-day captain Blaine Scully said. "Then we're back in our pattern and then we can start getting into our game a little bit."

Senior flyhalf James Bailes got into a rhythm right away, proving himself a master of precision throughout the match. Following up Barrett's try with his first conversion attempt of the day, Bailes ricocheted the ball off the right goalpost and through the uprights and give Cal a 7-0 advantage.

The South African got the Bears on the board again in the 18th minute with a penalty kick, and went 5-for-6 on conversion kicks. After a Tom Rooke try in the 27th minute, Bailes hooked a kick inside the left upright to extend the team's lead to 17-3.

Rooke, one of the heroes in Cal's comeback thriller against British Columbia, had another big game, notching a hat trick in the quarterfinal match. His second try sent the Bears into the half up, 24-3.

"I was lucky, right place, right time," Rooke said. "We put some good phases together and we had some good attacking phases from the back, put them on the rack, and I got to dot a couple down in the try zone."

Cal struggled to apply the same amount of force throughout the match, committing turnovers that let Life back into the game. A giveaway in the 64th minute gave the Running Eagles their only try.

"Sometimes we get into this comfort zone a little bit, and we really need to work on staying uncomfortable throughout the game," Scully said.

While Clark was dissatisfied with Cal's play in the win, Life's director of rugby Dan Payne was pleased with the effort by his young team, which had upwards of 10 freshmen on the field by the end of the game.

"They had plenty of opportunities against a good team like that, under that pressure to find an excuse to quit and they didn't," Payne said. "They needed to feel what it is to play at that level. That's the best value we could get out of coming out for this trip."

While the Running Eagles head home to Georgia, the Bears will look to make the right adjustments as they head into Glendale, Colo., for Saturday's national semifinal match against Utah.

"We played too loosely today, and we're going to have to tighten it up if we want to achieve what we want to achieve this year," co-captain Derek Asbun said.


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

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