The 2011 Dennis Storer Classic (A.K.A. the PAC-10 Tournament) stirred in some new flavor this season, adding Utah, whose varsity sports are set to join the new PAC-12 in coming years. Nevertheless, the outcome had the same taste as usual, with Cal upending UCLA in the tournament’s final for the fifth-consecutive season, 53-5. (The tournament win was Cal's sixth consecutive.)
In a 40-minute match, as all but one tournament game were, the Bears dominated the final from start to finish. Blaine Scully ran in two tries for the Bears in the opening 20 minutes, accompanied by one each from Danny Barrett and Connor Ring. James Bailes hit two of four conversion attempts.
The second half was equally dominant, as Sean Gallinger and Derek Asbun scored a try a piece and Seamus Kelly bagged a pair of his own. Bailes hit one second-half conversion, and Alex Aronson the other two. UCLA’s lone score was provided by Eddie De Dios.
The final was only the second game on the weekend for Cal’s A-side, the other being a 34-0 win over Utah on Saturday, despite the Bears cramming in six games on the weekend. With 60 bodies in tow from Berkeley, the Bears got more action for their second and third-side players in one weekend than they’ll likely get the rest of the season.
“I’m really grateful for having that many minutes on offer this early in the season, and we tried to keep some minutes off, I suppose, our top two teams to give them a fair crack at Utah and UCLA in the semis on Saturday afternoon – those teams wouldn’t have played as many games,” Cal coach Jack Clark told RUGBYMag.com.
“We just tried to soak up as many minutes with the younger guys as we could and tried to get them some competition experience, and it created a bit of an uneven performance overall, I think, but that was our approach to spreading those minutes out.”
Also winning big on Sunday were the Utes, who buried Oregon 60-0, perhaps taking their frustration over a disappointing Saturday out on the Ducks. Though Oregon went winless on the weekend, also falling 7-3 to Arizona on Saturday, coach Brendan Hobbs was pleased with his team’s resilience.
“I think we really grew together as a team. We were pretty undersized across the board the whole time. We had probably half a dozen starters out with injuries, and it was probably the first event this year I’ve seen our guys come together and play with some heart,” he said.
“They weren’t soft around the breakdown. They were making their tackles. They were holding strong on defense, and I’m really pleased with that, just seeing the way they’ve grown…I think the guys were able to play together and play strong and see that they can work together as a team without those (injured) weapons, so I’m really working to build off that.”
UCLA and Arizona played the weekend’s only 80-minute match on Saturday, a seesaw affair won by the host Bruins 34-29. Displeased with that outcome, the Wildcats rebounded big on day two to hammer USC 67-3, averaging over 1.5 points per minute.
“(Sunday’s) game was a much better representation of the way our team is capable of playing,” said Arizona coach Dave Sitton. “It was nice to play a game like this following the way we played yesterday.”
While Utah’s inclusion of this year’s Storer Classic was perhaps the highlight, some of the background discussion revolved around the possibility of a PAC-10, or PAC-12, 7s tournament in years to come. Schools tied to the ACC and SEC have already hosted similar events successfully.
“I think it’d be great, ideally in the autumn,” said Clark. “I think it’d be really good. What’s wrong with the current setup, of course, is that we come out of a 15s season and go right to 7s, but that’s a very difficult transition, and I think the transition the other way around isn’t only not as difficult, but almost helpful.
“I’d love to see a Pac-10 tournament. There’s been a lot of talk about it. I think there’s quite a bit of people talking about it, and I’m really happy that everyone’s talking about it to happen in the autumn.”
"Absolutely I think the future of collegiate 7s is with the traditional conferences,” added Sitton. “What better way to get people excited about the game of rugby than to have an event with all those traditional rivals.”