Dave Guest made five of six penalty kicks and the Bears held the visiting University of Victoria men’s rugby team to one try on Wednesday as Cal won 27-7 at Witter Field.
Guest, a senior, also nailed a conversion to total 17 points on the day. Cal’s two tries were scored by wing Eric Andersen and reserve forward Justin Parkhurst.
Wednesday’s game was the first of Cal’s series against the two top Canadian collegiate teams. The Bears will face University of British Columbia on Saturday, then travel to Canada later this year to face the two teams on their home turf.
The Canadian teams are currently in the middle of their season, but the Bears have been practicing for just six weeks. Although his team blew through their first six games against U.S. opponents by an average of 63 points, Cal head coach Jack Clark was surprised how handily the Bears won against stiffer competition.
“I don’t think anyone would have expected a 20-point victory today,” Clark said. “It’s not a bad result for six weeks of training.”
Guest kicked off the scoring early, nailing his first penalty kick just three minutes into the match. The Vikings put their solid kicking game to work early, attacking down Cal’s flanks with counters. Victoria wing Akio Tyler punched a kick through the Cal backline and nearly scored, fumbling the ball near the goal line. The Bears came close on a grubber of their own, with Guest slotting the ball through the Vikings, but center Mark Verlatti couldn’t corral the ball and committed a knock-on.
Cal did manage to get the ball into the try zone after 20 minutes. A sloppy pass in the backline ended up on the ground, but it bounced right into Andersen’s hands. The senior hit a gaping hole in the Viking backline, then juked fullback Charles Baumberg on his way to a 40-yard try. Guest hit an easy conversion kick to give the Bears a 10-0 lead.
Victoria answered right back with their only score of the game. With the Bears deep in their territory, the Vikings forced a turnover. Rather than kick out of trouble, they went on the attack, going through several phases before Tyler broke through the line. After 50 yards he dumped the ball to hooker Mark Lawson, who got the last Cal defender to bite on a fake pass before touching the ball down for a try. Ed Fairhurst made the conversion to bring the Vikings within 10-7, but that was the last time they would score against the stiff Cal defense.
“We defended our goal well,” Clark said. “They got close a few times, but we stiffened and responded.”
Guest gave the Bears a 13-7 halftime lead with another penalty kick at the 30-minute mark, then made three more in the first 30 minutes of the second half for a 22-7 advantage. The Bears put the game away with a try from Parkhurst with just four minutes left in the game. Guest put a penalty kick within three yards of the try zone, and the Bears’ pack won the ensuing lineout and pushed over the line, with Parkhurst diving into the try zone under two defenders.
Wednesday’s game marked the return of Cal fullback Kyle Khasigian, who missed the team’s first six games with a hamstring injury. WIth his backline complete, Clark said he was fairly happy with the team’s play.
“I’m pleased with the backline’s play today,” he said. “They made good decisions, which is the main thing. I think we left a try unscored, but Kyle played near-flawlessly.”
The Bears will take on University of British Columbia at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Witter Field.