Cal Wins Thriller at Witter
Cal Wins Thriller at Witter
After battling through four lead changes and entering halftime down three points, California outscored British Columbia by 12 points in the second half to win, 39-36, Saturday on Witter Rugby Field.
The Golden Bears took the lead they would not relinquish on a try by sophomore Sam Cusano in the 50th minute. That was followed by a 40-meter penalty from near the right touchline at minute 70 by flyhalf Jamie Howells (4-for-5 conversions, 2-of-2 penalties) to seal the win on a blustery afternoon in Strawberry Canyon.
"It was 80 minutes of good development for us," said head coach Jack Clark. "Obviously, they're a really good team, so it was good that we could hang with them. As I commented earlier, these are lesson-rich matches."
Fullback Aidan Flynn opened the scoring in the second minute when he finished the first offensive sequence for Cal after a penetrating run by sophomore center Christian Dyer.
Following a try by Thunderbirds prop Clint Lemkus that was converted by Theo Saunder (3-for-6) to tie the score, Nic Mirhashem retook the lead for the Bears after the Cal flanker chased down the ensuing kickoff and powered his way into the try zone.
"We were committed to each other and stayed within reach," Mirhashem said. "The mindset was just to give everything we have."
The match was tied again five minutes later on an unconverted try by UBC hooker Connor Sampson, but Howells slotted his first penalty to give the Bears a 15-12 lead at minute 18.
Sophomore scrumhalf Keanu Andrade scored a try to answer the one notched by his opposite number for UBC, Cole Keffer, but two more T-Birds tries put the Bears into a 31-22 hole at halftime.
Cal came out strong in the second half as sophomore tighthead prop Damon Wiley's effort to score was held up in goal before loosehead prop Kevin Sullivan's try and Howells' conversion brought the Bears to within two at 31-29.
Maintaining their composure, the Blue and Gold retook the lead for good on Cusano's try and added the insurance of Howells' penalty kick before UBC scrumhalf Cole Keffer's second try as time expired trimmed the final tally to a three-point outcome.
"The diversity of our attack was good," Sullivan said, "The young guys were pretty critical today. We were able to open up our attack around the field, and gained great experience across the board."
Sophomore Christian Dyer called it "a comprehensive effort. One through 15 and all the reserves, everyone brought something to the game."
Saturday's exciting win over UBC in front of a buzzing crowd was followed by a shutout victory for the Bears over Southern California in PAC Rugby Conference play.
Next up for the Bears is a midweek night match at home on Wednesday, February 28, at 6:30 p.m., against Santa Clara.
After that, on March 4, Cal visits British Columbia. "It's our reserve team's turn in Vancouver," coach Clark said. "Same as last year, we will we will spread the development opportunities through the whole of the team."
Following their trip to Canada, the Bears will be back in Strawberry Canyon for the two-day, four-team Cal Invitational, which sets the stage for Homecoming on Witter Rugby Field Saturday and Sunday, March 10-11. That weekend, the Bears welcome back former players and their families, celebrate major anniversaries of national championship teams and host a weekend tournament featuring California, UCLA, Army and Claremont Colleges.
The Scoring Timeline vs. British Columbia
02:00 Aidan Flynn 5, Jamie Howells 2
06:00 UBC (Clint Lemkus) 5, (Theo Sauder) 2
07:00 Nic Mirhashem 5
13:00 UBC Connor Sampson 5
18:00 Jamie Howells 3
19:00 UBC (Cole Keffer) 5, (Theo Sauder) 2
23:00 Keanu Andrade 5, Jamie Howells 2
27:00 UBC (Elias Ergas) 5, (Theo Sauder) 2
32:00 UBC (Jake Lan) 5
Halftime Score: British Columbia 31, California 22
43:00 Kevin Sullivan 5, Jamie Howells 2
50:00 Sam Cusano 5, Jamie Howells 2
70:00 Jamie Howells 3
80:00 UBC (Cole Keffer) 5
Final Score: California 39, British Columbia 36
The Team vs. British Columbia
15. Flynn, 14. Cusano, 13. Dyer (Purdey @ 10:00, Dyer @ 20:00), 12. Saunders (Purdey @ 57:00), 11. Tavenner (Goena 69:00), 10. Howells, 9. Andrade (Kurihara @ 68:00), 1. Sullivan. 2. Ogburn (Iscaro @ 74:00), 3. Wiley (Baylor @ 76:00), 4. Salter, 5. Bader, 6. Spradling, 7. Mirhashem (Heaney @ 08:00, Mirhashem @ 18:00), 8. Robles