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Monday, February 8, 2016

UBC Rallies To Defeat Cal

By Derek Sagehorn

The California Golden Bears fell to an opportunistic University of British Columbia side Saturday 20-15 in the first leg of the World Cup. Down 9-3 at half, British Columbia scored two tries and defended vigorously to hold off Cal.

Harry Adolphus added the first of his five penalties in the first minute after UBC lost their feet in front of the posts. Ten minutes later, Cal was pinged at the breakdown and Brock Staller leveled the score. Following the restart UBC was pinged for not rolling away, but Harry Adolphus reached and his kick failed to find touch. When Cal did find the line of touch, they were uncharacteristically ineffective at converting the set-piece into good ball for their backs. Less than half of their 1st half lineouts were taken cleanly and transferred to the midfield. Perhaps sensing this, the home side opted to take the points from a penalty at the 20 minute mark and Adolphus slotted another kick.

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For their part, UBC ran hard lines and came away with four clean line breaks in the first half. The Thunderbirds midfield attacked the blindside regularly and created two breaks from sharp unders lines. But they were unable to capitalize on these incursions and put additional points on the board. Cal added another penalty before half to bring the score to 9-3.

After half, Cal tried to clear their lines but failed to find touch. UBC took the ball cleanly and moved it across the field and fullback Andrew Coe sliced through for a try. Staller converted and UBC took the lead 10-9. Cal tried to restart their attack but several handling errors in the midfield sucked the air out of several promising opportunities. Cal's forwards, however, continued to impose themselves upon UBC at the tackle area and produced another penalty, which Adolphus made. UBC continued to attack the blindside. Spotting an overload, fullback Andrew Coe put a man into space and collected a neat offload to score a try in the corner. Staller's conversion brought the score to 17-12. In the ensuing minutes the Cal front row pressured the UBC scrum and were awarded penalties for their efforts. Adolphus made his fifth kick; score 17-15.

In the following ten minutes Cal retained possession and camped out in UBC's half, but were unable to pierce the defense. UBC were rewarded for their efforts when they regained possession and were awarded a penalty in Cal's half. Staller widened the deficit to 20-15. Cal took possession on the restart and moved into UBC's half. UBC were found off their feet at the ruck, and Cal kicked to touch. Nearing injury time, the Cal forwards took the ball cleanly and started to drive but were denied any go forward. Flyhalf Russell Webb shipped the ball wide but UBC covered well. The pack arrived and began to pick and drive towards the white line. Another ball was produced for Webb but a streaking outside defender forced the flyhalf to jink back inside. At this point Cal lost its attack structure as both halfbacks joined the forwards in picking and driving at the goal line. After a few more attempts at the line, UBC counterrucked, turned the ball over, and kicked it out to bring the final whistle.

Going forward, Cal will look to correct areas of concern at the lineout and in the midfield for their road trip to the University of Arizona. UBC will doubtless be happy with a win in Berkeley, but is well aware that the rematch in Vancouver will feature a more polished and hungry Golden Bears side. 

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