Cal's Triumphant 10th in Tampa

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TAMPA, Fla. - How do you spell dominance?

Rumor has it that after this weekend's national collegiate rugby championships, Webster is pushing to officially change the spelling to C-A-L.

This past weekend, the Bears collected their 10th consecutive national title. Not since 1991, when George Bush was still in the White House and before Kobe Bryant was even a teenager, has another team won the national championship.

Cal defeated Wyoming yesterday, 62-16, and Army the day before, 49-19, to complete its decade-long title run. Following the trophy presentation, the players broke into the only celebratory song fitting for a rugby team - the "California Drinking Song."

"This in an accumulation of a lot of hard work," senior team captain John Taylor said. "The guys really deserve this. I'm really proud of the boys."

Taylor was selected as the four-team tournament's Most Valuable Player. In addition to fulfilling his duties as the team's captain throughout the weekend, Taylor pushed in a try in each of the Bears' victories.

Yesterday's championship game was a hard-fought battle that was much more competitive than the score indicated. Just three minutes into the game, the Cowboys chose to go for the points from the midfield stripe after a Cal penalty. The kick sailed wide and gave the Bears possession, which they quickly turned into a Kort Schubert try. John Buchholz made the conversion to give Cal a 7-0 lead.

After a Cameron Bunce try and a Bucholz conversion and penalty kick, the Bears had pushed their lead to 17-0.

But just when it looked as though Cal would run away with the game, the Cowboys answered by scoring on consecutive possessions to cut the lead to 17-10. But moments later, after stealing possession, Taylor took control of the ball directly off a line-out and pushed his way past the end-line. The momentum had officially swung.

"I thought it was important that we stop their little run," Bears coach Jack Clark said. "The momentum-changer aspect of things was the most important."

Although Taylor's second try of the tourney changed the direction of the game, Bunce was responsible for the day's most memorable play. After receiving the ball deep in the Bears' territory, the freshman took off down the sideline, breaking tackles and outrunning the Wyoming backs to record a try that covered nearly three-quarters of the field.

"Andy (Armstrong), our scrumhalf, made a switch at the line," Bunce said. "We were going to run a play to the open side, but we saw that the weak-side wing was playing back, so Andy switched it back to my side. I knew that I couldn't go down because it meant so much to me."

"It was a spectacular run," Clark said of Bunce's try. "It's like a nice little alley-oop in basketball, just a little head nod between the scrumhalf and the wing. Cameron's just too fast once he gets in open field and he's a pretty tough tackle once he gets some momentum going."

After the break, the Cowboys scored two quick penalty kicks to cut the lead to 38-16. But from there, Cal took complete control. The Bears recorded five unanswered tries in the last 20 minutes of the game to finish off the Cowboys.

"We knew that we had it," said Schubert, who scored three tries in the championship game. "We are a team that excels in the second half and we showed that today."

In Saturday's game against Army, it was once again the Cal's second-half play that dictated the outcome. Early in the first half, the Cadets held a 12-3 lead over the Bears and were ahead, 12-11, at halftime. But the Army lead was short-lived - after Cal woke up and scored 46 consecutive points, the game was over.

Meanwhile, Sunday's national championship marked the end of a number of Bears' careers. Taylor, Armstrong, Matt Kane, Mike Freeman, Shaun Paga, Russell Cole and Andy Tamayo, all major contributors in this year's title, each played their final game for Cal Sunday.

"It feels amazing," Taylor said. "This is an amazing way to end my career here at Cal. (Each of the championships have) been amazing, I'm just glad that I ended my career on this one."

"This feels really good," Kane agreed. "You know, the two prior championships were a little more intense, little bigger crowds, but this one was hard-fought and it feels really good. It's a relief, now I get a couple of weeks to just put my feet up."


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