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Written by Pat Clifton    Tuesday, 28 February 2012 18:36    PDF Print Write e-mail
That Cal Column You Wanted
Columns - Op-Eds


Judging by the 2,000-plus hits (and counting) on the Cal Working to be Eligible for DI-AA Postseason story, and by the blatant calling for a column on the issue in our comments section, I think it’s safe to say some of you wouldn’t mind hearing RUGBYMag’s opinion on the Cal situation. Well, for what it's worth, here’s mine.

Originally, I didn’t think it was all that intriguing. Cal would like to play for a National Championship in DI-AA. So what? I get that people care, but is it that earth-shattering a development? It wasn’t when Dartmouth left the CPD, it wasn’t when LSU and Tennessee left the CPD. Why is it so massive for Cal?

I’m not completely ignorant. Cal has set the standard for college rugby for longer than I’ve been alive. I understand that. But, ultimately, Cal left DI-A for a myriad of reasons, many of which are in line with why other schools have left.

Jack Clark has discussed how it’s important Cal plays against other Pac-12 universities. The DI-A setup was only guaranteeing one Pac-12 match for Cal. The Golden Bears will wind up playing four others in friendlies this year.  

No one called Dartmouth out for leaving DI-A and focusing on the Ivy League, which it did because its administration couldn’t care less about winning the DI-A national title. And no one lambasted LSU and Tennessee for being swooned by the idea of an SEC rugby conference.

And make no mistake about it, Dartmouth and Tennessee are embarrassing their conference foes just like Cal would do in a DI-AA league. Dartmouth beat Cornell by 94, Columbia by 64, Yale by 60 and Harvard by 62. Tennessee slaughtered Vanderbilt by 64 and Alabama by 56. But they’re not villains. By the way, Cal slaughtered teams in the CPD, too. So it’s not like they’re leaving an uber-competitive league in which it might lose a bunch of games for pillowy schedule.

Cal also left for financial reasons. No, not because the playoff system was too expensive in DI-A compared to that of DI-AA. Put that argument away. But because it felt exploited by the DI-A championship game, which took in a significant dollar amount at the gate and didn’t kick any of the proceeds back to the schools who provided the entertainment the paying fans went to see. Is it not OK that Cal would make its decisions based partially on principle?

Some people seem to believe Cal is ducking BYU or Arkansas State or Life. That Clark is scared his team can’t compete this season. What a ridiculous notion. Cal is traveling to Utah, St. Mary’s and playing the University of British Columbia twice. Those are very good opponents. In fact, if you made a conference out of those four teams, you’d have one stronger than any in DI-A, wouldn’t you? Not to mention, if Clark was so scared of losing and hurting Cal’s image, would he have thrown less-than-top side at Cal Poly?

Cal left DI-A for a myriad of reasons, and Jack Clark and his staff owe it their players to try and give them something to play for. I see no sinister motive behind going for the DI-AA title. None whatsoever.

I get it. There are a lot of people who dislike Cal and Clark. I'm not going to tell you that's unfair. Perhaps you have a perfectly good reason. Or perhaps not. Not my business. But to say that Clark and/or Cal are somehow doing American rugby a disservice by trying to play for a DI-AA championship is silly.

Now, should Cal be eligible? No. They dropped divisions mid-season. Like the Competitions Committee said, allowing Cal to be eligible would set a dangerous precedent. But that’s the only reason Cal should not be eligible.

And if the College Competitions Committee’s ruling is overturned, Cal deserves an at-large bid for beating four DI-AA teams, two DI-A opponents (so far) and traditionally the best university side in Canada.

 
Written by Alex Goff    Tuesday, 28 February 2012 18:29    PDF Print Write e-mail
Biller Likely to Saints
International - Americans Overseas


Chris Biller. Numina Photo.Rumors that Chris Biller is signing with the Northampton Saints in the Aviva Premiership appear to be true, as Biller just changed his city of residence on Facebook to Northampton.

Biller, who was signed on a short-term deal with Bath, is a friend and former SFGG teammate of Northampton star Samu Manoa. The former Cal All American made a few appearances for Bath, but once their injured hookers were healthy again, he was the odd man out in a foreigner-heavy Bath squad.

 

 

 
Written by Jackie Finlan    Tuesday, 28 February 2012 16:37    PDF Print Write e-mail
UCLA Women Secure Nationals Berth
Colleges - Women's College


Heading into the UCLA v UCSD DI women’s college game last Saturday, the Bruins and their 3-0 victory were favored to exit the day with a win. And while the prediction held true, it was no easy road to the 31-5 victory.

The UCLA center pairing of Yukako Kawakatsu (with ball) and Ana Peck against UCSD.

The first half nearly ended in a stalemate as both teams struggled to move the ball. Play was getting caught up in the rucks, and while there weren’t many scrums, there were plenty of penalties, which continued to stall momentum.

The UCSD’s aggression in the breakdown yielded dividends 30 minutes in, when a well placed ball made its way to UCSD’s outside center, who broke through the line for a 30-meter try, 5-0 into the break.

“It was clear where UCLA was getting beat,” UCLA coach Tia Blythe said. “After a quick halftime talk, the UCLA forwards stepped onto the field with a renewed energy."

UCLA hustled to every breakdown and allowed scrumhalf Lucy Tin to deliver clean ball out to the backs. On one such occasion, the ball made its way to wing Noorin Dorosti, who gathered her grubber kick down the sideline for the try. Dorosti converted her centered try for the 7-5 lead.

That play fired up the UCLA team and it was all Bruins after that moment. The backs picked up their defense and UCSD was unable to breach the line.

Prop Elizabeth Sanchez  accounted for the next two tries. The first came off a lineout inside UCSD’s 22 meter, and the second followed a series of forward punches along the sideline. Dorosti converted Sanchez’s first try for the 19-5 lead.

Fullback Jordan Klein put one in for the backs, inserting into the line and splitting the UCSD centers for the try. The forwards helped set up the final score – and final play of the game – working to the 22 meter with another series of punches. Tin worked the ball out to her backs, and outside center Ana Peck took advantage of the same defensive gap between her opposing centers for the try. Dorosti converted the score for the 31-5 victory.

“UCSD is a great team,” Blythe commended. “They started off the season with a few injuries and had to make some adjustments, but they came out to the pitch ready to play. Their forward pack really challenged us at each breakdown and really forced the UCLA forwards to push themselves.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” Blythe continued. “There is always room for improvement and our team realizes that the level of play that we will see at Nationals is of a higher caliber. Now that we have secured a spot to nationals, in the final two games of the regular season we hope to continue to develop our team and perfect our game plan.”

The teams will meet again on March 10 in their final games of the regular season. UCLA will see Arizona State this Saturday, while UC San Diego takes on UC Santa Barbara.

 
Written by Kathleen Higgins    Tuesday, 28 February 2012 17:02    PDF Print Write e-mail
Snowy Battle Goes Wash State's Way
Colleges - Women's College


Megan Bonny led the Washington State women to a 42-0 victory over Washington last Saturday, scoring four tries to lead her team with 20 points. The win puts WSU atop the Pacific Northwest’s women’s DII college standings, going 4-0 with only Central Washington left on the schedule. WSU defeated their toughest opponent, Western Washington, 17-14 during the fall portion of the league season.

Washington State (red) are one win away from regionals.

The windy, snowy conditions necessitated a shorter, quicker game, and the weather should have played into UW’s hands. Washington sports a much larger pack, and WSU had been working to build its attack around a more wide-open game.

But the WSU forwards supported their rucks well and won the majority of the scrums.

“UW played a very forward based game and while our forwards were outsized and playing in less than ideal conditions they rose to the challenge and played with the tenacity and heart WSU rugby is known for,” said senior lock Mileka Grager. “I couldn’t be more proud of our team for our victory against the Huskies this weekend.”

The backs, although their hands were affected by the cold, tightened up their passes and played a faster game. The team saw some nice breakaway runs from Bonny, Samantha Pedersen and Hillary Johnson. Forwards Grager and Noehly Tzintzun led the pack with some great power-runs and were key during penalty plays.

With the dominance of the forwards and good adjustment from the backs, the room to run and score opened up. In addition to Bonny’s four tries, lock Dakota Breish, fullback Carly MacKinnon, outside center Anne Peterson and flanker Bria Spano all dotted down, while MacKinnon added one conversion.

The Huskies provided a good learning experience for the Cougs to improve and prepare for post-season play.

Club president and scrumhalf Amber Sadoski said, “Despite the cold and nasty weather, it’s always a good feeling to destroy the Huskies.”

Next weekend the Cougs take on the Central Washington University Wildcats in Ellensburg.  If the Cougs win they will move onto the regional championship in April for the fourth season in a row.

 
Written by Jackie Finlan    Tuesday, 28 February 2012 15:36    PDF Print Write e-mail
Stanford, Chico Win Big in PMNC
Colleges - Women's College


Two big wins came out of the Pacific Mountain North Conference last weekend, with Stanford and Chico adding to their point total. The Cardinal trounced UC Davis 72-5, while Chico rebounded from a 34-10 loss to Cal on Saturday with a 54-17 victory over visiting Oregon State.

Chico (red) gets their first victory of the season over Oregon State. (Dobson Images)

The tries came easily for Stanford, but Amelia Villines and Molly Kinsella stood out on the day with ball in hand. Katie Lampert was the defensive star of the game.

“We improved on all accounts, especially defensively from the previous week,” Stanford captain Frances Wehrwein reflected on her team’s 32-10 win over Cal two Saturdays ago. “We were also able to put more phases together to play longer strings against Davis. Although we had a brief shortfall that resulted in their only try, we were more pleased with the result than the previous week.”

The Chico v Oregon State game was more competitive until about the 60-minute mark. Riddled with injuries and a shallow bench, OSU took a 14-0 lead off tries from wings Rachel Hausmann and Kim Nguyen, both converted by Hannah Lockwood.

But by the 20-minute mark, Chico found their stride and within three minutes matched OSU’s two scores for the 14-all tie. Chico added a penalty before the break to take the lead. The teams traded scores to open the second half, with Hausmann getting her second five-pointer of the day (24-21 Chico).

“Shortly after this last try, things began to unravel for us in a big way,” OSU coach David Dickson said. “By about 20 minutes into the half, Chico had scored two more converted tries and was up by 17. We had a penalty deep in their territory and decided to run it because of the point deficit we were facing. We were unsuccessful finding the goalline, and after a few phases, Chico recovered and cleared. That was really the moment the game slipped away.”

Lockwood came off with a badly sprained ankle, and flanker Rachel Hausmann, who was standing in for star back row Haley Dietz, suffered a game-ending shoulder injury. With no replacements, captain Liz Freund decided to finish out the game with 14 players on the pitch.

“They played with a lot of heart and determination, but they were battered, tired, deflated and outnumbered,” Dickson said. “Chico scored quite a few times in the closing 15 minutes of the game, which was initially for more even than the score suggests, but the injuries were our undoing. Once we were down, we were unable to put up much of a fight against a pretty fit Chico team.”

OSU will struggle to finish the rest of its season strongly, as its roster is looking very thin at the moment.

“We're already focusing on recruitment for next year,” Dickson said. “It's obvious we don't have the numbers to be successful in this league, but I think we are very close. Right up until the 60th minute of this game, I think we've shown we can be competitive in this league, but then we just imploded due to our lack of depth. That will be our focus going into next year. With all the high school kids coming through the ranks of Rugby Oregon, I think we'll be in much better shape.”

OSU has one last game this season against Cal, which will be looking to shore up second place in the division. Chico will play its toughest game of the year against Stanford.

 


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