Annapolis, Md. - With a lineup featuring six underclassmen starters who were joined by three more frosh-sophs as replacements, California advanced to the semifinals of the Varsity Cup National Championships on Saturday with a 77-0 win over Notre Dame at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium.
The Golden Bears (20-0, 5-0 PAC) got 13 tries from 10 players, including two each from lock Brendan Daly, match-day captain and No. 8 Danny Barrett, and fullback Jake Anderson, who added another 12 points on conversions (6-for-10).
Notre Dame flanker Bobby Manfreda missed a penalty attempt (0-for-1) in the eighth minute that proved to be the best chance for the Irish to score.
"It was an honor to play at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium," said match-day captain Danny Barrett, who took over captain's duties on a day that Seamus Kelly was held in reserve and did not play. "The tour of the academy yesterday was a highlight."
Cal will face Navy at the semifinals next Saturday, April 27, at 1 p.m. on Witter Rugby Field. The Midshipmen (8-1, 7-0 Atlantic Coast) defeated Dartmouth, 32-0, in the second match at the Eastern Super Regional located just off the campus of the U.S. Naval Academy.
"The Naval Academy did a great job of hosting," said Cal head coach Jack Clark. "There were key athletic administrators on hand at every turn. This venue will be an important franchise as the Varsity Cup grows."
The Bears entrusted their fate against the Irish in a Starting XV that included a backline almost entirely comprised of players who had featured primarily as reserves throughout the spring. Sophomore Nicklas Boyer, who continued to build on his resume at scrumhalf, distributed the ball to freshman flyhalf Harry Adolphus (0-for-1 conversions), who kept the ball moving to sophomore Eakalafi Okusi at inside center, freshman Anthony Salaber at outside center and sophomore Jesse Milne at one wing; in the forwards, sophomore Michael Bush got the call to start at one of the flanker positions.
"A lot of us younger guys stepped up," said Bush. "Anthony Salaber was a key for me."
After lock Brendan Daly started the scoring in minute four to finish a Cal attack, the Irish remained composed and managed to press into Cal territory and draw a penalty, but Manfreda's attempted three-point kick from 30 meters was wide left.
Eight minutes later, Bears hooker Grant Hyjer scored Cal's second try, but the conversion from Anderson was no good into a stiff wind blowing into his face from the north. The fullback missed his next attempt as well following a try by Boyer, but made his next two after a try by Okusi was followed by one of his own, and Cal went into halftime up 29-0.
"Cal came out and went through their phases at a very fast pace," said Irish head coach Sean O'Leary. "That's what they do well: they recycle and they win the collision areas. It's a good learning experience for us. I've always been impressed with how Jack Clark and Tom Billups put their program together. They play at a high pace and that's where we aspire to be."
"Notre Dame is one of the improving teams in U.S. collegiate rugby and they're growing the program in the right way," coach Jack Clark said. "It was a difficult match for them today but their coaching leadership and team ethos are outstanding."
As has become its trademark over the past five matches, Cal shifted into a higher gear in the second half, adding 48 points including tries by Adolphus, Andre Coquillard (0-for-2 conversions) and Carl Hendrickson.
The Bears left Annapolis honored to have played the Super Regional at the historic venue of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, which is ringed with the names of battle sites around the world where Naval and Marine forces have fought and fallen for this country.
"A Navy administrator shared a great story with our team during Friday's walk-through," said Clark. "When Lou Holtz was coaching at William & Mary College in the early '70s, he brought his team into the stadium, showed them the battle names on the facade and told them, `You think our schedule is tough.'"
"It definitely felt good to come out with a win in a single-elimination tournament, but we know we've got a big week of practice ahead to get ready for this next matchup," added Milne. "This is what as an athlete you live for, to go out there in those do-or-die moments and take it."
Tries: Daly 2, Hyjer, Boyer, Okusi, Anderson 2, Barrett 2, Milne, Adolphus, Coquillard, Hendrickson
Convs: Anderson 6
Notre Dame 0