Thunderbirds win ‘World Cup’ with statement victory

UBC Rugby vs California

VANCOUVER – A rampant UBC outfit ran out 40-3 winners against the California Golden Bears on a sunny afternoon at Thunderbird Stadium to reclaim the ‘World Cup’. The Thunderbirds came into the game needing to win by more than nine points to secure the trophy but it soon became clear the ‘Birds were capable of so much more.
A first series win since 2006 and a victorious 64-36 aggregate total gave the Thunderbirds their most satisfying victory of the year.
Played out in conditions far more akin to that of California than the normal rainy March meetings between these two sides, UBC did not take long to open the scoring.
An infringement out in front gave Bryan Tyrer the opportunity to put the ‘Birds ahead and he could not have asked for an easier kick. UBC led by three after three minutes.
Jake Anderson injured himself halfway through the first leg, was back for his first game in six weeks and he pulled the Golden Bears level with a penalty of his own in the 25th minute.
UBC got the ball back in play and immediately camped themselves in Cal’s half. Tyrer placed a perfect cross-field kick into Sean Ferguson‘s arms and he was hauled down deep in their 22. The ball was recycled quickly, Ben Grant broke the line and sent Tyrer over to dot the ball down between the posts. Tyrer converted his own try and the Thunderbirds led 10-3 after 30 minutes.
Another Tyrer penalty extended UBC’s lead to the magical 10 point margin just before half-time and the Thunderbirds found themselves in the perfect position going into the break and a series win in their sights.
As soon as the second half started, UBC resumed where they left off. A couple of forages into the Cal half yielded no reward before Francois du Toit made a break and the ‘Birds were able to start punching real holes in the Golden Bears defence. The ball was sent wide and du Toit appeared to have made his way over the tryline. With the ball just short, Nathan Rees picked and burrowed his way over in the right-hand corner. The referee had to confer with his assistant before awarding the try, but after a quick consultation he raised his arm and the cheers reverberated around the stadium. The conversion from out wide was pushed left by Tyrer and the score now read 18-3.
The Thunderbirds appeared fearless in their attempt to win the game, and even with a comfortable lead over the Bears they continued to throw caution to the wind and attack from within their own half.
One of these attacks started from the base of a ruck in their own 40 and went through all but one back’s hands as it was spread wide to Erik Hunter-James. He dislodged the first two tacklers and bumped a third before finishing the 60 yard effort. Tyrer’s conversion was good and the lead was now 22 points.
Cal made it back into the UBC half and threatened to score a try of their own. UBC’s defence held firm and they were able to slow the ball down and not allow the Bears to break the gainline. Joshua Schreiber was awarded a yellow card after a couple of infringements by the Thunderbirds, but even with a man down the ‘Birds were able to withstand Cal’s attack and prevent them from scoring.
Another length of the field try was UBC’s next score. Started by a run on the right wing by Ferguson, the ball was kept alive and some magnificent offloads in the tackle allowed Ferguson to receive the ball 20 yards out and coast home with Cal tacklers strewn across the field.
The Thunderbirds had one more try in them and once again it came from impressive back play from deep. The ball was moved wide out to Hunter-James once more and he bounced two more defenders before falling across the try-line with a third on his back. With just four minutes to go Tyrer was unable to convert but little did it matter; by this stage the result had not been in doubt for a while.
An overtime penalty allowed the Thunderbirds another kick at goal, this time Tyrer was on point and rubbed further salt into Cal wounds. The final score: 40-3.
This result is just one of many impressive performances in an already impressive season. General manager Spence McTavish was unexpectedly jubilant after his team had dismantled Cal’s Golden Bears.
“We thought that their weakness might be in their outside backs and that proved to be true today,” he said. “We weren’t very happy with our tackle count when we played them down there and we knew we needed to ramp it up defensively and use that to trigger our offence. We said if we were able to put some phases together and keep hold of the ball and move it to the outside that’s where we wanted to be.”
When asked to reflect on the success of reclaiming the Wightman Boot for the first time in 17 years and winning this ‘World Cup’ for the first time in eight, McTavish was quick to laud his team’s accomplishment but is already looking ahead to their next big game.
“For many years Victoria has been the premier university program in Canada and Cal has definitely been the number one rugby program in the States, so to beat both of them in the same year is a big bonus. Our next goal is against Seattle in a few weeks up here and that’s going to be a big, big game.”