Ruggers Earn Trip to Varsity Cup Final

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By David Bush, Staff Writer
Posted Apr 23, 2017
If by BearInsider Staff or Contributor, this article is Copyright © 2017 BearInsider.com


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Jake Goena Try vs Penn State
Photo: Al Sermeno, isiphotos.com
The Cal rugby team took awhile to get going in Saturday's national semifinal against Penn State at Witter Field, but once they did the Bears rolled over Penn State, 35-14.

This victory earned Cal what has become its annual spot in the Varsity Cup title game. The Bears face Arkansas State May 6 at Stevens Stadium on the Santa Clara University campus.

Both teams were scoreless in the first 20 minutes Saturday until freshman Keneau Andrade got the Bears on the board with a try. In the next 18 minutes the Bears scored four more times to go into halftime with a 20-0 lead.

"Full credit to Penn State, they're a good team," head coach Jack Clark said. "It took us a long time to get on the scoreboard. We had a pretty stiff defense in front of us, and we had to play a lot of defense ourselves."

Penn State dominated the early moments of the second half, and finally got a try themselves at the 53-minute mark. Lest the Nittany Lions think they were getting back into the game, Cal scored two tries by Jake Goena and Andrade in the next eight minutes.

The Nittany Lions gamely answered with another try, but two minutes later Cal's freshman Damon Wiley scored his second try of the game.

"It was kind of like in a boxing ring, one guy throws one big punch, the other guy returns it," said Cal senior Anthony Salaber. "They were really a good team that came out with a lot of fire, but we seemed to just to able to find the counter punch every time they came around."

Clark said that being able to answer every Penn State score was crucial.

"We answered back right away, that was pretty important I think so we wouldn't have any runaway momentum against us," he said.

And Cal did have an idea of how it could counter Penn State scores, having picked up a weakness in the visitors's game. "We thought when we kicked off they were a little bit vulnerable and they were," Clark said. "We were able to get under both of those balls and create loose balls. Then we were able to get beachheads."

It was the last home match for Salaber and a sizeable group of Cal seniors. The underclassmen wanted to make their finale memorable. The Bears started five freshmen and sophomores and played seven.

"To come out and play for all the seniors was just amazing," said Wiley. "The energy and tenacity was there, and we knew Penn State was going to be physical as well. It's up to us to keep that pace going the entire 80 minutes."

The Bears have two weeks to prepare for Arkansas State, which defeated Navy, 25-7, in the other semifinal.

Salaber thinks they have some work to do. "We've got to improve our set pieces," he said. "Our scrums and lineouts have to be better so we can really develop a good ball off that base."

This is the fifth year of the Varsity Cup and Cal's fifth trip to the finals. The Bears lost the first three to BYU before downing the Cougars last year.

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