Ruggers Split Canadian Trip

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The Cal rugby team faced the two teams that had handed it two defeats last week, and the Bears needed some help.

Cal got it in the form of junior flyhalf John Bucholz and senior All-America No. 8 Shaun Paga, who returned from injury to contribute to the Bears' 2-1 mark over the break.

Cal defeated both the University of Victoria and Sacramento State, but fell to the University of British Columbia.

The Bears (11-3) took on the University of Victoria in Victoria, Canada Friday. The Vikes handed Cal its second loss of the season earlier this year in Berkeley, but the team the Bears faced last week was a much different team than the one that beat them a couple of months ago.

In preparing for an important league match that took place Saturday, Victoria didn't play many of its first-side players against Cal, which gave the Bears the opportunity to switch up its side a bit as well.

The two mixed-side teams competed hard, but Cal's depth prevailed. On the backs of some of its younger players, Cal pulled out a 32-10 victory.

Freshmen Cameron Bunce and Casey Young ignited the young Bears team with some key runs, while sophomore Matt Viboch provided Cal with nine points off his kicking foot.

"Some of the new guys really stepped up big on Saturday," senior flanker Paul Virk said. "Casey Young had some great runs and Bunce had a great game. It's definitely going to be to our advantage if we can play a lot of guys come tournament time."

But even better news for the Bears was the return of Paga to the lineup. His 30 minutes Friday were the most since the injury he suffered early in the year.

"Shaun Paga played really well," Virk said. "He came in and returned some of our physicality. He's definitely the kind of player who can dominate a game."

Meanwhile, Cal battled the University of British Columbia for the second time this season Wednesday, hoping to keep control of the coveted World Cup trophy. The Thunderbirds had handed Cal its first defeat of the season, which caused the Bears to head into British Columbia with something to prove.

In their first matchup, Cal outscored UBC by more than 20 points in the second half, and that momentum carried into the first half of Wednesday's game. The Bears took an early 7-0 lead on a Mike MacDonald try and a Bucholz conversion. The Thunderbirds returned the favor, knotting the game at seven. Kort Schubert muscled in for a try just minutes before the half, sending Cal into the locker room with a 12-7 lead.

"We were up going into the half," junior scrumhalf Andy Armstrong said. "We weren't tired and I think the cup was in the back of our heads."

After 60 minutes of solid rugby, the Bears let the lead slip away. The UBC kicker got in the act, connecting on three penalty kicks in the second half alone, while Cal could only muster five total points after the intermission.

The result was a 23-17 loss and Cal's third setback of the season.

"It's a hard game to explain," Virk said. "We definitely had our moments of domination, but we just didn't finish. We had the game to win, but we just didn't put them away."

Before the trip north of the border, Cal did battle with Sacramento State. The game proved to be nothing but a warmup for the Bears, who easily defeated the Hornets, 55-10.

Cal will take on Stanford at Witter Field Saturday in its final league game of the season.


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