The past month has seen the Cal Poly Rugby Club get behind the wheel and clock up the miles all to ensure everything is ready to go come the 10th March when the Mustangs take on the St. Mary Gaels in their first 2012 Div 1A match in Moraga.
Following Poly’s physical match in Santa Barbara the club headed east, through Bakersfield, Barstow, and Las Vegas, to arrive in the lovely town of Mesquite Nevada for a pre season friendly against Utah. The Utes, ranked 6th nationally in 2011, were always going be tough particularly in unfamiliar surroundings. As the A Side match drew closer, the B Side match currently underway were feeling first hand what these unfamiliar surroundings would have in store. Consistent winds of 35 mph, and gusts of up to 45 mph, drove down the very exposed field on the outskirts of town.
The Mustangs won the toss and elected to start with the wind, hoping to capitalize with some early points. Enjoying plenty of ball in the first half Poly couldn’t maintain possession as the Utes constantly disrupted the ball at the breakdown and in the scrum. Working hard into the wind, Utah pushed at the Poly line on many occasions. Solid defense out wide from Jake Gersh and Landis Nasser kept the scores at nil half way through the first 40, but as time went on the big Utah pack managed to charge over the line to get a few tries up at the break.
The scoreboard and the wind were against Poly in the second half but that didn’t deter the Mustangs from giving it everything to the final whistle. Making their way slowly but surely into the Utes half led by powerful 8 man Eric Parsons, Poly pounded on the pressure which finally resulted in a try to reserve scrum half Tommy Leacox.
The final score saw Utah clear winners 36-5, but Cal Poly came away with some solid lessons on what it takes to not only compete with but to topple top 10 teams.
Next Saturday back in sunny California, San Luis Obispo put on a beautiful a day for Cal Poly’s friendly against UCLA at Talley Fields.
After a strong and skillful UCLA came out hard in the opening stage of the match, it was clear this was going to be another serious encounter for the Mustangs. Conceding an early try, Cal Poly hit back with some brilliant back line execution off a scrum just inside UCLA’s half. Hard cutting inside center Andy Early broke the UCLA defensive line and finished it off with a 40 meter dash to try line. Although Cal Poly’s attack was finding holes in the UCLA defense, the proficient Bruins backline was finding space out wide and capitalizing with points on the board.
A late Poly fight back and try to winger Joeti Klein wasn’t enough to catch UCLA who held on to a 39-24 win. Cal Poly will meet UCLA in their round 3 Div 1A match in Los Angeles on April 14.
Cal Poly’s fifth consecutive match in 2012, saw seven starting A Side players sit out of the Santa Clara friendly due to injury. This provided many players in waiting a chance to prove their worth, and that they did. Freshman Prop Hunter Kett, second rower Joe Cremen and flanker Kurt Drinkwater all had strong performances in the pack, which laid the platform for a free flowing game by Cal Poly outside backs. Numerous line breaks made around and through the Santa Clara defense saw winger Nate Nunno top the try count with 3, followed by fullback Landis Nasser with 2 and centers Jake Gersh and Cody Perez with one each. The final score, Cal Poly 44 – Santa Clara 30.
This Saturday 25th February sees Cal Poly take on reigning National Champions Cal Berkeley in the final friendly match of the 2012 pre season. The Cal Bears recently pulled out of the Collegiate Div 1A competition but will keep all their committed 2012 fixtures as friendly matches. If you are in or around SLO this Saturday be sure to catch the match as it will no doubt be a fierce encounter. A Side kick off at 2pm, entry is free.