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Four Top D1A Teams At One Special Day At Cal

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Four Top D1A Teams At One Special Day At Cal

Sam Cusano and Ronan Murphy will take the field, but not against each other. David Barpal photo.

It’s a big day of rugby in Berkeley on Saturday with both Army and Navy playing at Witter Field.

“We’ve been scheduling as many out-of-conference games as we can, and we got Army scheduled,” said Cal Head Coach Jack Clark. “And then Navy and Saint Mary’s said, let’s play at Cal, play it all at one venue and not split the fan base. People can come watch two games if they want to. That made a lot of sense and we’re glad to do it.”

Both games will be broadcast, with Cal vs Army on Pac-12 Networks and Saint Marys vs Navy streamed online. Saint Mary’s comes in after a pretty solid defeat of UCLA last week, one in which fullback Eddie King had a bit of a breakout performance, and one in which the front row of Payton Telea Ilalio, Nick Hryekowicz, and Joe Marchant put a bit of a stranglehold on the Bruin pack.

Navy is coming off an impressive 36- defeat of Arkansas State where the Midshipmen controlled field position nicely and looked quite polished.

Army is still coming out of the winter break, and will have their hands full against Cal. Still, this is the beginning of a four-game run in the spring with Cal, Central Washington, Penn State, and Navy.

For Cal, despite some big injuries, the Bears have been firing pretty nicely. 

“The team’s been developing pretty well,” said Clark. “Were an improving team; we’ve got a lot to work on; to be at our best and take on the best teams, we’ve got a ways to go. But I’ve been pretty happy with our ability to cope with losing key players.”

That would include center and captain Christian Dyer (out before the season and for the long term), flanker Sid Holland, hooker Nathan Zylstra, prop Michael Puckett, center Ethan Greene, and flyhalf Sam Walsh—all of whom are out injured.

With Seth Purdey and Ken Kurihara both stepping at flyhalf, they have been able to cope.

“Guys have been willing to move around to play their 2nd or 3rd position to help the team,” said Clark. “That’s been gratifying. I don’t think we’ve done eveything well, but we do some things well. Our fitness is reasonable, we can get to the ball quickly, but our scrum has been creaky a little bit and we struggled in the scrum with a younger group against UBC. So we’ve got to get better at that.”

Cal hasn’t lit the world on fire with its kicking game, either, and Clark said he felt his team came out on the wrong end of some kicking exchanges. But as he said, they are determined to get better.

This weekend, with three intense rivals, Cal gets to play host, and gets to see where they compare to high-level college opposition.

“I’m so proud of those young men from both of those academies and what they’re going to go on and do with their lives,” said Clark. “And they’re good rugby teams. Saint Mary’s is obviously a very good rugby team. So this is one of those really good days for collegiate rugby.”