British Columbia wins game on late try
After 75 minutes of fast-paced, hard-hitting action, the Cal rugby team led the University of British Columbia 25-22. After losing twice to the Thunderbirds last year, the Bears could taste redemption.
But BC fullback Stan Manu broke the Cal backline for a big gain, and flipped the ball to streaking winger Nigel Griffin, who touched the ball down for the deciding try and a 27-25 victory in the first leg of the teams’ annual series. The final try seemed to break the Bears’ spirit, and the Thunderbirds spent the remaining minutes threatening the Cal tryline again.
The game was one of missed opportunities for the Bears, as fullback John Buchholz missed four penalty attempts, as well as having a drop-goal blocked in the final minutes.
“I thought (Buchholz) struck the ball okay. He got off to a bad start, missing his first one, but I stuck with him,” Cal heaad coach Jack Clark said. “I thought that last kick was real tough for him.”
The Bears also committed more turnovers than usual, and two BC tries came directly from Cal mistakes. Just before halftime, the Bears lost the ball in a ruck just outside their try zone, and the Thunderbirds punched the ball over easily to to up 12-10. The ensuing kickoff was a disaster for Cal, as Griffin broke three tackles, then off-loaded to Manu for another try in injury time, and the visiting side had a 19-10 lead at the break.
“We had two minutes of insanity, and it cost us 12 points,” Clark said. “They had a couple of breaks and good support on the ball, and they just finished it.”
Buchholz missed a penalty attempt early in the second half, but his forwards got the ball right back, and he slotted his next attempt through the uprights to bring his team within six points. And when Cal eight-man Shaun Paga burst through the BC defense and outran Manu to the corner for a try, the Bears had a 20-19 lead following Buchholz’s conversion. But the lead was short-lived, as a Thunderbird penalty kick put the visitors back on top.
The next 20 minutes was marked by turnovers by both sides, as well as some of the hardest tackles seen at Witter Field this year. Neither team managed to score until Cal flyhalf Matt Sherman broke through the Thunderbird backline and found Buchholz streaking down the right side. The fullback slipped through Manu’s tackle and scored in the corner to give his team their last lead of the game.
The Bears will head to Canada to face the Thunderbirds on March 28.
“It’s harder to play in Vancouver because it’s away from home, and they’re defending the shores of British Columbia,” Clark said. “But on the other hand, we’ll have another five or six games under our belts, and five or six more weeks of training. We’ll be a better team.”
The Bears next challenge will be playing two games in one day in Austin, Tex. on Sunday. They will play Texas at 1 p.m. and Oklahoma at 2:30.