Rugby: Near-Invincible Bears Complete Historic Sweep of Canadian Schools

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The Cal rugby team has a stated goal of improving a certain aspect of its game, be it tackling or decision-making, in every match.

On Saturday, the Bears got to test a more advanced skill-the dramatic comeback-for the first time, and came through with flying colors.

Cal (14-0) defeated traditional rival British Columbia for the second time this season with a come-from-behind 28-19 effort in Vancouver.

The Thunderbirds had revenge on their minds after getting blown out 47-13 at Witter Field a month earlier in a game marked by confrontational and dirty play.

It was the Bears, however, who made a big statement, sweeping the traditional series for the first time in recent memory and putting their goal of an undefeated season in sight.

"We had to dig down a bit in the second half," Cal coach Jack Clark said. "But I was happy to see that we had enough in reserve,"

Counting its 27-7 win over Victoria in February, Cal has won all three of its games against Canadian teams, no easy feat, even for this program.

"It's huge-it hasn't been done as far as I can remember," sophomore Kyle Khasigian said. "It's a great thing to add to our legacy."

The Bears looked to be in trouble as UBC scored first, and held Cal out of the try zone in the first half to take a 12-6 lead into the break.

With a healthier lineup and spurred on by its home crowd, the Thunderbirds managed to outplay the Bears without resorting to the physicality that marred the first match.

"Full marks to UBC," Clark said. "We expected them to play well at home and they didn't disappoint us."

It was the first time the Bears had gone into halftime with a deficit, and things didn't get better right away, as the T-birds put the top down and cruised in for a try in the 44th minute, stretching their lead to 19-6.

The game clearly turned at that point, however, as Cal solidified its previously shaky defense and began to control the game.

"We didn't play good defense in the first half, and our leaders really stepped up," Khasigian said. "Kort (Schubert) and Mike MacDonald were everywhere making tackles, and Jason Forney and Alex Houser stepped up the pressure and started causing turnovers."

The extra possessions paid off in the 49th minute when MacDonald powered in for the Bears' first try.

The floodgates may not have broken at that point, but a steady stream of Cal offense was certainly created. Tries from Khasigian and Tony Vontz, sandwiched around a Dave Guest penalty kick, made it 22 unanswered points to finish out the game.

After the Bears' domination of the Canadians at home back in February, it looked like they might not be tested by an opponent all season. This game, however, showcased the team's resilience and toughness under duress.

"This game helped us see we're not invincible and we have to play up to our potential to win," Khasigian said. "We got to show that we can come from behind and win even when we're not dominating an opponent."

Cal tuned up for the trip to Canada with a trip to Chico State March 23. Using mostly reserve players, the Bears eased to a 43-8 rout.


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