Treasure Island used to be a naval base, but is now a quirky new “neighborhood” of San Francisco — old naval buildings are being repurposed as wine tasting houses and apartments.
It was against this backdrop that the Cal varsity rugby team “repurposed” and shuffled players around, seeking a clearer picture of its sevens squad after some early season injuries of key upperclassmen. The takeaway is positive. Cal ultimately went 5-1 and placed third in the second round of the West Coast 7s tournament, losing only to Arizona in the semifinals.
In pool play Saturday, Cal’s teams were underclassmen-heavy to give some needed experience to the younger Bears, especially with a diminished quiver of upperclassmen. And the young Bears delivered. Cal dominated San Jose State, Trinity Western and San Diego — scoring 132 points in total.
The Bears started the day facing off with the San Jose State Spartans. Cal scored two tries before the first half, one from freshman wing Nick Bloom and another from Nathan Zylstra, a sophomore hooker from Australia. It was only 10-0 at half.
After halftime though, the Bears stepped on the gas and scored three tries, with two from Max Clark, a speedy freshman scrumhalf/wing from the U.K., and one from Jack Gallagher, a scrumhalf from Hong Kong. All of these tries were converted. In the last minute, Zylstra punched down another. Cal won 36-0.
Cal then moved on to the Trinity Western Spartans. Contrary to their start against SJSU, the Bears scored four tries before halftime — three of these were scored by junior fullback/center Seth Purdey. Cal scored five more in the second half, and two were scored by Marcus Shankland, a junior wing from the U.K. The Bears took the game 51-0.
In its last match of the day, the dismantling of the University of San Diego Toreros came out of the seven tries scored in the game: two being scored by Max Schumacher, a freshman fullback from Sacramento, and another pair being scored by Alex Brundage, a freshman fullback/center from the U.K.
On Sunday morning, Cal faced Utah. The Bears started off fast and strong in their traditional blue and gold “hoop” uniforms. Zylstra scored in the first minute, then Sam Walsh — a flyhalf sophomore from Hong Kong. In the second half, the Utes did manage to swoop one in with a speedy try from Jason Frantz in the eighth minute. But that was Utah’s final show of defiance.
Then Arizona came along. The game went scoreless for the first five minutes until Cal’s Zylstra put the first try on the board in the fifth minute. Arizona quickly responded with a try right before halftime from Matthew Start.
In the second half, Arizona’s Matthews really ramped it up; Matthew Start scored in the ninth minute, and Matt Rogers scored in the thirteenth. Cal’s Max Clark was able to squeeze one last try in the 14th minute, but that wasn’t enough to repair the damage done in the second half. Cal fell 21-10.
“We lost our purpose a little bit. In defense, we were scrambling too much,” said Cal head coach Jack Clark. “Ultimately, nine turnovers in possession made it — so we couldn’t get much rhythm going.”
Cal finished the day with a trouncing of Cal Poly 43-0 — the team that beat Cal in the San Luis Obispo installment of the tournament two weekends ago, upsetting the Bears 19-17.
Moving forward, Cal is preparing for the PAC Rugby 7s Championship at Stanford on Nov. 9 and 10. And it seems the Bears, despite some tough injuries, have a clear idea of their squad for sevens play — the Bears are rolling on.