Cal Hosts UBC in Berkeley
Cal Hosts UBC in Berkeley
Berkeley, Calif. – The Cal Golden Bears prepare to meet their longtime rivals the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds 2 pm Saturday at Witter Rugby Field, where California aims to turn the tides against a powerful UBC team.
"I've seen a lot of really good UBC teams over the years, but I can't ever remember one this loaded," said Bears Head Coach Jack Clark. "They are a big and highly experienced team."
This is likely the oldest college rugby rivalry in North America, and has been an annual two-game series between the Bears and the 'Birds for decades. Cal held the "World Cup" (so named because the old Vancouver World newspaper sponsored the series for a time) for several years, but recently UBC, with some additional support and scholarships from the school for the program, has gone from strength to strength.
UBC swept the games in 2016, and this year the Thunderbirds are 8-2, with losses to men's teams UBC Old Boys and Burnaby Lake, and wins against Capilano, Meraloma, Abbotsford, Vancouver Rowing Club, Seattle Saracens, Burnaby Lake, University of Victoria, and UBCOB.
Those last two were games in the BC Premier League. The other games were fall warmups, but are against some of the strongest men's clubs in North America.
The 'Birds have some talented players from Canada and also from overseas.
The front row will likely include South African Clint Lemkus, former Ireland U20 Chris Taylor, and former Canada U20 Neil Courtney.
"It's nearly 800 pounds of front row," said Clark, "and they're every bit that strong."
Lock Thomas Roche is a former Canada U20 player. Flanker Jake Ikeda (BC U20s), flanker Nakai Penny (Canada U20s), and No. 8 Connor Hamilton (Canada U20 captain) are all talented players.
The backline is basically a Canadian U20 alumni team.
It's a young Cal team that hosts UBC, with 18-year-old freshman Damon Wiley likely to get some time at prop, and freshman Sid Holland likely to get time at hooker. Sophomore lock Robert Paylor will likely pair with Connor Sweet in the second row, while freshman Thomas Spradling and sophomore Nic Mirhashem are in the hunt for back row selections. Drew Gaffney, coming off his three-try performance against Arizona State, could be the choice at No. 8 in place of the injured Thomas Robles.
In the backline, halfback duties could be decided between freshman Keanu Andrade and sophomore Fawzi Kawash. The midfield, the most experienced Cal unit, looks to stay consistent, with flyhalf Russell Webb, inside center Anthony Salaber and outside center Patrick Barrientes the likely choices. The deep three could be comprised of Jake Goena and freshman Sam Cusano, who just had his 19th birthday, on the wings, and sophomore Troy Lockyear at fullback.