The UBC men’s rugby team needed to win by more than 10 points to bring home the World Cup trophy for the first time since 2006. But the ’Birds couldn’t take advantage of their opportunities and ultimately fell 38-6 to the University of California Golden Bears in the second leg of their annual series. UBC lost the series by an overall score of 68-24.
It was a tight, low-scoring affair in the first half on Sunday afternoon, with neither team able to get much going on offence or score a try. UBC took an early 3-0 lead off a penalty kick from Brock Staller, but Cal tied it right up with a kick of their own shortly after. The teams exchanged penalty kicks for the remainder of the half, and the Bears took a slim 9-6 lead into the final 40 minutes.
Cal came out flying at the start of the half, diminishing any chance of UBC bouncing back and silencing the large crowd at Thunderbird Stadium. They tacked on two tries to push the lead to 15, and came up big on defence to maintain it. UBC had numerous chances to cross the try line, but stalled just short of it for several minutes and was unable to break down the Golden Bear defence. After that period of intense pressure, Cal took control for the rest of the game and sailed to a convincing victory.
“I think in the first half, the Thunderbirds did a good job of keeping possession, keeping us on the back foot, which is never easy. And I think we went into the locker room and realized that we needed to get more possessions and make the most of the possession that we did have and not give away easy balls, and I thought we did that,” said Cal captain Seamus Kelly.
The score does not fully reflect how close the game was for the majority of the contest, as UBC had many chances to take the lead or even the score. But a few missed kicks and the T-Birds’ inability to cross the goal line eventually cost them, and a few late Golden Bear scores put the game well out of reach.
The win gives Cal, consistently one of the top teams in the NCAA and 16-0 this year, the series victory for the seventh straight year and the 14th time over the past 17 years. Overall, the series has been played every year since 1921 and is one of the most intense and competitive cross-border rivalries in North American collegiate sports history.
Despite the tough loss, the remainder of the season looks bright for the Thunderbirds. They have an overall record of 13-4-2 and sit near the top of the Okanagan Spring Brewery League One standings. They have five more games left before the postseason starts in May.
UBC’s next contest is against the University of Victoria on March 29. The game is at 2:30 p.m. at Lord Rugby Field on campus.