Last updated: March 30, 2012 11:44 am
UBC rugby squad falls in international competition
The University of California-Berkley bests Thunderbirds in annual World Cup challenge
VANCOUVER (CUP) — It’s easy to believe you can pull off a result before the game starts. The sun is shining, the scoreboard says nil-nil, and you’ve got a shot. But when injuries hit and you’re 20 points down, how do you turn it around?
How do you defeat a more powerful enemy?
The University of British Columbia men’s rugby team didn’t answer that question against the University of California at Berkeley, but they certainly did some research. The World Cup two-game series was up in the air after the Thunderbirds lost the first match 13-12 in California, but injuries piled up and defensive errors multiplied. Cal scored three tries in the first half and took a 22-8 lead, effectively putting a T-Bird World Cup victory out of reach.
Yet UBC refused to lay down and die. They kept pushing and scored a pair of tries that came straight from hard work.
“Things weren’t happening in the backfield so the forwards tried to keep it to themselves and were pretty successful in regards to that,” said UBC head coach Spence McTavish. “I thought the forwards played very well today and I think the backs really let our team down.”
A number of key UBC players were injured heading into the game, and five freshmen played in their first World Cup.
“We’ll put the best team that we can on the field on the day, and whatever that team is, that’s the team that represents UBC,” McTavish said ahead of the game.
But it got worse: defensive specialist Shawn Bates had to come off in the first 3 minutes, necessitating the first of more than 11 subs for the Thunderbirds.
Throughout the game Cal took control by exploiting holes in the T-Bird back line and UBC couldn’t hold the defensive shape that kept the same Cal squad to only one try in their previous meeting.
In the second half, with Berkeley holding a commanding 36-8 lead, UBC’s forward pack did their best to end the embarrassment. At the 59-minute mark they manufactured a try and then seven minutes later, eighth man Alexander Daniels smuggled the ball out of a scrum 10 metres out. He took the ball right to edge of the try line before getting tackled. After a successful ruck, UBC captain Alex Kam smashed the ball over the line for the try.
Unfortunately for UBC, that ended the nascent Thunderbird comeback. At the 68-minute mark, Cal’s scrumhalf Paul Bosco crossed the try line after Berkeley ripped through UBC’s defence. A penalty put the nail in the coffin with six minutes left, and the Golden Bears could have scored again after forcing a turnover, but the whistle for full-time ended that.
Coming into the second half, the challenge was to overcome a monstrous lead against the best college team in the United States. It was a credit to UBC that they were able to find a pair of tries — only the fourth time in the last ten years of World Cup games that a team scored 20 points in a losing contest.
But the 91st chapter of this classic rivalry ended in a 46-20 loss for the Thunderbirds. Going into next year, the team will want to improve on that result and their placement in the CDI Premier League, and the keys are clear. Improve on defence, desperately hope to avoid injuries and make sure that they keep systems and penalty-taking on task.
But according to the UBC skipper, working hard helps. “They went out there and they kept their heads up, and they kept persevering and they didn’t give up,” said McTavish. “All in all I guess that’s really all you can ask as a coach.
“Just hey, you guys just go and keep fighting on and see what happens.”