Thunderbirds win opening leg of World Cup at Cal

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BERKELEY The UBC Thunderbirds rugby team defeated California, 19-6, Saturday on Witter Rugby Field as theThunderbirds scored three tries, kept the Bears in check in wet conditions and exited the contest with a 16-point lead that they will look to maintain in the March 22 rematch for the “World Cup” in UBC.

“It was obviously a big step up in competition for us and at times we struggled to adjust to the pressure,” said California head coach Jack Clark. “We were both forced into errors and got a bit panicky when we got in behind them a few times. Had we scored a couple of those tries which were one pass away, who knows, maybe we could have made a match of it. But take nothing away from UBC, they were the better team on the day.”

Cal (6-1, 1-0 PAC) had the first crack at scoring in the opening leg of the two-match series when co-captain Jake Anderson lined up a 32-meter penalty kick, but his attempt was wide to the right. The fullback was able to make good on his next attempt just two minutes later from 25 meters to give the Bears a 3-0 lead.

The Bears faced their first deficit of the spring several minutes after that when UBC (9-1) scored in the right corner and Thunderbirds wing Brock Staller made a difficult conversion to give the visitors a 7-3 advantage. Anderson nailed his next penalty attempt in the 34th minute, but a slew of handling errors stymied the blue and gold almost every time Cal created offensive opportunities.

Seven Cal players got their first taste of the “Cup” on Saturday, which will be remembered as a day that got away from the Bears partially by their own doing.

“Errors in open play make it hard to chase the game when you’re down,” said Anderson. “Obviously we were under more pressure from them than any other opposition this season. The good thing to take away is that we can improve in those facets.”

“We know how good they are so we had to make sure we were ready for both forward and backline attack. We just came up and kept coming,” said UBC head coach Ramses Langston.

The Thunderbirds will carry a 16-point advantage going into rematch March 22 in Vancouver, Canada. The winner of the “World Cup,” named for the Vancouver World newspaper, goes to the team with the best aggregate score after both contests.

The Scoring Timeline vs. UBC

05:00 Jake Anderson 3

11:00 UBC 5, (Brock Staller) 2

14:00 UBC (Quinton Willms) 5, (Brock Staller) 2

34:00 Jake Anderson 3

Halftime Score: British Columbia 14, California 6

64:00 UBC (Theo Sauder) 5

Final Score: British Columbia 19, California 6