Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
Article courtesy of the University of California Athletics
The University of California Golden Bears endured three lead changes in an evenly contested first half before hammering British Columbia for a total of eight tries by eight players as California secured its fifth straight “World Cup” series against UBC with a 54-18 victory Thursday at Thunderbird Stadium in Canada.
Flyhalf James Bailes was 7-for-8 on conversion kicks as Cal took home its 12th Cup in the past 15 seasons.
“It was a full team effort and I’m proud of the way we picked it up in the second half,” said captain Derek Asbun, who played his final collegiate match against the Thunderbirds. At halftime, he said, “We looked each other in the eye and knew what we had to do.”
Although Cal exited the afternoon with a 36-point win, the opening 40 minutes were rife with uncertainty as Cal struggled with unforced errors. Following a missed penalty attempt wide right by Bailes from 30 meters in the seventh minute, UBC took the lead at minute 12 when the T-Birds won a scrum at the Cal 20-meter line and finished with flanker Jeff McKinnon touching down. Fullback Dave Hilborn converted for a 7-0 advantage.
The Bears answered back following a UBC penalty deep in its own end as scrumhalf Connor Ring quickly restarted and scored a try, converted by Bailes. But Ring pulled a muscle and had to leave the match shortly after play resumed, which brought in freshman Paul Bosco as his replacement.
Cal allowed another opportunity for the Thunderbirds when it was whistled for a penalty at the 22nd minute and Hilborn capitalized, kicking a 25-meter three-pointer to retake the lead. Another Hilborn penalty kick following a whistle against Cal for pulling down a maul widened the UBC lead to six at 13-7 with seven minutes remaining in the first half.
The Bears pounded away for a final sequence to end the first stanza and Bosco finished it by faking a pass left and then diving into the try zone for a score. Bailes kicked the go-ahead points with his conversion and Cal went into the locker room with a 14-13 advantage.
The Thunderbirds had a chance to retake the lead early in the second half following another Bears penalty, but Hilborn did not have enough distance on his 42-meter attempt.
Four minutes later, Bailes fed outside center Seamus Kelly and the sophomore made the last T-Bird miss as he sprinted 25 meters for a try. Winger Blaine Scully followed suit three minutes later and Bailes converted both to extend Cal’s lead to 28-13.
The Bears’ forwards came together to dominate scrums and lineouts in the second 40 minutes and Cal stayed on the gas with tries by Asbun and hooker Neill Barrett, both converted by Bailes, before T-birds winger Francois Ducois dotted down an unconverted try in the left corner with 11 minutes remaining. Winger Dustin Muhn put a blue and gold exclamation point on the day with his try in the 80th minute to end the scoring.
“Great work by the forwards getting to the breakdowns,” said Bosco of the second-half surge by the Bears. “We also moved the ball around a bit better after halftime, too, but you have to hand it to the forwards, because they were massive.”
The Bears (18-0, 2-0) put forth one of their first-choice lineups against the Thunderbirds, though co-captain Jason Law was a notable absence as he continues to recover from injury.
“The difference today was that when the Cal forwards decided they wanted to put on the pressure, they certainly did,” said UBC head coach Spence McTavish.
Cal completes its Northwest road trip with a match against divisional foe Central Washington in Ellensburg, Wash., on Saturday, March 26.
The Scoring Timeline vs. British Columbia
12:00 UBC (Jeff McKinnon) 5, (Dave Hilborn) 2
15:00 Connor Ring 5, James Bailes 2
22:00 UBC (Dave Hilborn) 3
33:00 UBC (Dave Hilborn) 3
40:00 Paul Bosco 5, James Bailes 2
Halftime: California 14, British Columbia 13
48:00 Seamus Kelly 5, James Bailes 2
51:00 Blaine Scully 5, James Bailes 2
57:00 Derek Asbun 5, James Bailes 2
60:00 Neill Barrett 5, James Bailes 2
62:00 Anthony Lombardo 5, James Bailes 2
69:00 UBC (Francois Ducois) 5
80:00 Dustin Muhn 5
Final Score: California 54 British Columbia 18
Cal Lineup vs. British Columbia:
15. Lombardo, 14. Muhn, 13. Kelly (Chehade @ 67:00), 12. Gallinger (Nafisi @ 69:00), 11. Scully, 10. Bailes, 9. Ring (Bosco @ 18:00), 1. Deterding, 2. N. Barrett, 3. Besser (Davenport @ 61:00), 4. D. Hyjer, 5. R. Hodson (Daly @ 63:00), 6.Asbun ©, 7. Rooke (Colin @ 67:00), 8. D. Barrett