STANFORD, Calif. - The University of California beat Cal Poly 31-14 to win the Stanford Invitational Sevens Tournament Saturday at Steuber Rugby Stadium. The Golden Bears went 5-0 in the tournament, also defeating the Mustangs in pool play along with UC Davis and Sacramento State before blanking Saint Mary's, 26-0, in the semifinals.
Captain Seamus Kelly scored five tries on the day including twice in the final, while freshman Russell Webb started four of Cal's five matches, scored a try and connected on 11 conversion kicks. All 18 players on Cal's travel roster contributed to the tourney crown.
"It was a hard day but I'm really proud of how we constantly improved our performance," said Kelly. "The biggest takeaway of this tournament is the mentality we had throughout the day."
The Bears' plans to win Pool A were put to the test early on Saturday when Cal and UC Davis were tied, 7-7, late in the second half. Cal ran in a couple of first-choice players from its reserve bench, and tries in the waning minutes by Anthony Lombardo and Kelly cemented a 21-7 Cal victory.
The Bears then had their first tilt with Cal Poly in a battle for first place in their pool, and Cal had to come back from an early deficit after Taylor Honnette's try and Alan Frost's conversion gave the Mustangs a 7-0 lead. Three first-half tries by the Bears, two by Andrew Battaglia, made it 19-7 in Cal's favor at the break, but Cal Poly trimmed the lead to five on a try by Andy Early, converted by Brent Mine, before junior Jake Anderson sealed Cal's win with a try near full time, leaving the Bears with a 24-14 victory.
In its third pool-play matchup against Sacramento State, Cal scored seven tries, three by sophomore Nicklas Boyer, to beat the Hornets, 41-0, and seal its top spot in Pool A.
The Bears next drew Saint Mary's, the second-place finisher in Pool B. The Gaels had fallen 14-12 against UCLA at the end of pool play to set up its matchup with Cal.
Saint Mary's tried to be patient deep in its own end after receiving the opening kickoff, but Kelly stole an errant pass and fed Battaglia for Cal's first try. The Bears were resilient on defense in their end, too, staying organized through multiple phases to track down Gaels ballcarriers. Kelly had a try of his own sandwiched by two from Josh Tucker and Webb connected on 3-of-4 conversions for the final score of 26-0..
In the final, Cal once again found itself down 7-0 on a try by Landis Nasser and conversion by Alex Frost. But on the ensuing kickoff, Lombardo received the ball at about his 35-meter line, juked two defenders and raced 60 meters to the try zone.
Webb slipped on approach and missed the conversion, leaving the Mustangs in the lead at 7-5, but the freshman added a try followed by another by Kelly before halftime to put the Bears ahead to stay.
Kelly, the senior captain, praised the freshman Webb as "probably one of the smartest 7s players on the team. He's got the ability to make big plays and he made huge tackles all day, really playing above his age."
As a team the Bears held their opponents to only 35 points total over five games on Saturday. The next-closest total was 64 surrendered by the Gaels.
"We were all motivated to win this tournament," said Webb. You can't fault anyone's effort today, especially in defense."
"It was an overall solid tournament for us," said Bears head coach Jack Clark. "We are missing almost an entire team of really good 7s players through injury and other issues, and it's really good to see so many young players contributing so well."
Cal Poly head coach David Burnett said his team "showed very good attack against some good teams, Cal being one of them, but 7s is brutal if you don't have the ball. The Bears did a very good job of keeping possession in our games with them, and I think Cal was very disciplined in their play, very structured."
Cal (17-2) will now have three weeks to prepare for the PAC Sevens Rugby Tournament on Nov. 3-4 at UCLA, where coach Clark will be forced to reduce his travel roster down to 15 players. Fifteen is also the number of players allowed by all teams at the USA Rugby College 7s Championships on
Nov.- 30-Dec. 1. The winner of the PAC Sevens earns an automatic bid the championships.
Stanford 7s Scores
Cal 21-7 UC Davis
Cal Poly 26-7 Sac State
UCLA 26-0 Stanford
Saint Mary's 33-14 Santa Rosa JC
UC Davis 17-12 Sac State
Cal 24-14 Cal Poly
Saint Mary's 26-5 Stanford
UCLA 45-0 Santa Rosa JC
Cal Poly 21-12 UC Davis
Cal 41-0 Sac State
Stanford 14-7 Santa Rosa JC
UCLA 14-12 Saint Mary's
Cal 26-0 Saint Mary's
Cal Poly 24-7 UCLA
Davis 17-0 Santa Rosa
Sac State 29-7 Stanford
Championship: Cal 31-14 Cal Poly
3rd/4th Saint Mary's 38-5 UCLA
5th/6th UC Davis 21-14 Sac State
7th/8th Santa Rosa 26-24 Stanford