UCLA will face Cal and Arizona State will take on Utah in the semifinals of the PAC Rugby 7s, which featured all 12 Pac-12 schools.
UCLA ended up the top-seeded team out of pool play and then beat Oregon State 29-5 to make the semis.
“It was a really good day for us,” said UCLA Head Coach Scott Stewart. “This has been a pretty competitive tournament; I was impressed with the quality of play. But I think our guys did well and played with a lot of patience.”
They needed it against Arizona in their final pool match, when the Wildcats scored two first-half tries to lead.
“We were defending and defending and defending,” said Stewart. “But they came out of that feeling pretty confident. Then we got the ball, scored a couple of times, and came back.”
The games were competitive, but the quarterfinals not so much, as Arizona State beat Oregon 24-0, Cal beat Arizona 36-0, and Utah beat Colorado 38-0. Some of those teams were stressed a bit in their fourth game of the day and faded.
Cal and Arizona State had one of the most intriguing games of the day, as ASU scored at the death to beat the Bears.
But that just meant Cal was not the top-seeded team, and the win over a very good Arizona team has them back in the mix.
"It was full effort that taxed everybody," said Cal captain Seamus Kelly. "Anything can happen in 7s - it's the nature of the game - but the challenges we faced today continually refocused us and we're looking forward to the opportunity tomorrow to compete again."
In Utah’s pool, it was all confusion as Utah was beaten by Colorado, who were in turn upset by Oregon. All three finished 2-1, with Utah taking 1st on tiebreakers. The fact that eight of the 12 teams made the quarters meant Oregon, who finished third in that pool, still had a shot at glory. But the Ducks were upended by Arizona State.
The semis will be exciting, and any team could win.
"In these seven-minute halves, every mistake is amplified and you can't call a timeout, so it's very intense," said Cal freshman Patrick Barrientes, who saw action in pool play. "It was an honor to wear the blue and gold for my school in front of my family today. But tomorrow is a new mission for this team with its own goal."
Stewart, for his part, was as happy about the tournament his school is hosting as he was about his team’s performance.
“I thought the tournament was run pretty efficiently by the volunteers,” he said. “We had a big crowd with a lot of energy cheering for everyone. They were cheering good rugby, not just one team.”