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Deluge of tries: Cal pulverizes Grand Canyon in stormy weather

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FEBRUARY 06, 2023

Any fan looking for free-flowing, mistake-free rugby could have been intimidated by the torrents of rain pouring down Strawberry Canyon last Saturday. Despite this obstacle, the 22 Bears playing at Witter Rugby Field ran their usual offensive game plan nearly to perfection to thrash Grand Canyon in an impressive 69-7 victory.

Cal did not wait long before crossing the whitewash. Its first try came after a Grand Canyon clearance kick was exploited by Cal forwards and relayed by the backs, who stretched to tighthead prop Michael Puckett in the corner. Fullback Max Schumacher did not fail in his responsibilities and slotted the difficult conversion between the posts.

Forwards continued to fill in the scoresheet, as Tom Dixon scored his first try of the afternoon following a clean line break. Vexed, GCU took possession of the oval ball and scored from a destructive maul — their first  and last try of the game.

Thereafter, repeated handling mistakes saw the game briefly devolve and lose structure. But Cal found its rhythm again in the 28th minute when Dixon crashed over after a series of pick-and-goes for his second try.

The blue and gold sieged their opponent’s territory; after Cal forced a heroic try-saving tackle, it did not abandon its efforts as Puckett completed his brace of tries just before the intermission. Cal outpaced CGU by 19 points at halftime.

As the rain stopped and the referee blew the start of the second half, head coach Jack Clark reorganized his back line: Max Threlkeld played on the wing to bring a much-needed punch to the offensive line, and sophomore fly-half Kealan O’Connell came off the bench six minutes after halftime.

Clark’s versatile lineup selection, capable of adapting its game strategy to any conditions, paid off after the break. Fifth-year Nathan Zylstra took advantage of the forwards’ domination and ran a fifth score for Cal rugby.

The backs, deprived of try-scoring opportunities until then, finally displayed their talent and sent Schumacher over in the 52nd minute.

The Bears were simply inevitable, and freshman Rand Santos ran past the Lopes’ defense only four minutes later. Grand Canyon found it increasingly difficult to contain Cal’s attacking waves and remained blocked in its territory. Its clearance capacities, diminished since early in the beginning of the game, were too weak to give it momentum in the second half.

Five Cal substitutes entered the field in the final twenty minutes and were able to get in on  the try-filled end of the afternoon. Loosehead prop Emilio Shea imitated his tighthead counterpart and ended in the in-goal zone after more devastating work from Cal’s forwards.

British winger Max Clark was brilliantly set up by his backline and scored a double within six minutes. In between, Dixon powered past the line and earned himself a well-deserved hat trick. Schumacher converted these three tries, bringing his total to 19 points.

The referee ended the match with a final 69-7 score.

The rain made the afternoon a difficult task for the Bears; nonetheless, their forward play led the way to a comprehensive victory against a team Coach Clark considers as the best opponent Cal has played to date. Although handling mistakes and ruck inaccuracies spoiled part of the first half, the Bears tightened their screws and were clinically efficient in the scoring range.

Cal hosts UCLA on Saturday at 1 p.m., a team who lost last week to Grand Canyon 14-24. The game will be broadcasted on Cal Live Stream-5.

Contact Paul Lesgourgues at 


FEBRUARY 06, 2023