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Cal rugby underclassmen tear down Santa Clara in landslide home win

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JANUARY 24, 2023

XVs rugby is played — as its name indicates — by 15-a-side teams in an 80 minute time frame. Saturday, the Bears tallied 79 points, almost scoring one point per minute as they tore down the Santa Clara Broncos in a landslide home win 79-3.

The outcome of Saturday’s game was far from unpredictable. Yet, Cal fans in attendance at Witter Rugby Field for the first time since April 2022 may have wondered how the Bears would follow up on  their impressive Dennis Storer Classic wins in Southern California. The majority-underclassmen lineup composed by head coach Jack Clark gave an emphatic response, as they played once again like a well-oiled machine capable of churning out massive wins.

Saturday’s game did not start on Berkeley Time; that’s why the Bears were impatient enough to unlock the scoreboard early in the game. Loosehead prop J.P. Vinter crashed in the Broncos’ in-goal area only 90 seconds after the referee blew the opening whistle during this try-filled afternoon. Sophomore flyhalf Kealan O’Connell added the extras and successfully claimed the tee again in the 13th minute to finish right-wing Joe Kirsten’s work. The well-orchestrated offensive display from the backs was repeated three minutes later when British-born fullback Oliver Newall ran a third score for the blue and gold.

Down 19-0, the Broncos earned a penalty in Cal’s territory. Realizing that scoring chances would be few and far between, Santa Clara refused to go for the try and opted for a penalty kick. The ball passed between the sticks and the Broncos obtained their first — and last —  three points.

Vexed by the impossibility of keeping their opponents scoreless, Cal rugby resumed its demolition in the second part of the first half.

Left-wing Dougie Brown imitated his right-sided counterpart as he crossed the whitewash in the 26th minute before outside center Max Threlkeld burst through the Santa Clara defense to increase the winning margin to 30. Kirsten earned a brace of tries right before the intermission to make the total 40-3 after conversion.

New half, same Bears. The second half started just like the first: Threlkeld touched down for the second time in the game only a minute after the break. Cal made sure to subdue a brief  Santa Clara awakening before tighthead prop Josh Mao ran past the Broncos’ defense for the eighth time. Vinter was sent over the try line and collected a second try in the 55th minute.

Entering the final quarter of the game, Clark introduced his substitutes, but the Bears did not slow down. Replacement half Michael Freeman cracked 60 points on the scoreboard in just as many minutes. The forwards took an example on the backs and rewarded their close-range lineouts with powerful mauls. Dom Paga scored two consecutive tries as a result and extended the lead to 74 to 3. South-African freshman Michal De Beer finished the job in style, opening his try record for Cal rugby in his debut match.

The referee ended the Broncos’ nightmare in a 79-3 final score.

There are many takeaways from this 13-tries demonstration. Coach Clark offered substantial game time for freshmen and sophomores, filling 13 out of 15 starting positions. Not only did the newcomers offer Cal fans an entertaining afternoon with ten different try scorers, but they proved they could run an entire game without enduring the slightest adversary pressure. The following weeks will demonstrate if Cal rugby can continue generating comprehensive performances akin to its Santa Clara demolition.

Contact Paul Lesgourgues at 


JANUARY 24, 2023