cal takes down the cats after contrOversial early card

 

#2 cAL 55

 #14 aRIZONA 13

Ben Scoular and the Wildcats turn their attention to the Bruins after dropping to the Bears on Saturday. 

By Andrew Pillari

Feb 17- Arizona welcomed Cal to Sitton Field on Saturday in the 51st meeting between the two historic PAC-12 rivals, with the 2nd-ranked Bears and the 14th-ranked Wildcats each seeking a key victory in the conference and national title chase. The national television audience of Eleven Sports/FTF added additional spotlight to this rivalry, with College Rugby gaining a new platform in the American sport landscape. 

All of this created a special atmosphere Saturday, with the Bears taking an early 5-0 lead before working their way down on some Wildcat mistakes to make it 10-0. From here the hosts responded, pushing in to the Cal 22 before a key turnover led to Cal possession inside the Wildcats' half. The biggest play of the match took place in this moment, but it was not by any of the 30 athletes on the field. A controversial red card awarded to Scrumhalf Maxime Cathala put the Wildcats at 14 men in just the 15th minute, an obstacle tough to overcome against any opponent, let alone a top five side. For the Wildcats, the card was given for foul play, with a Cal player holding Cathala illegally and the Freshman Scrumhalf doing his best to break free. While still early, this was a decision that had major ramifications. "It was a major turning point in the game, but it's not excuse. We needed to rally and while we did that in spurts, we need to string those together longer and put more pressure on the opposition" said Director of Rugby Sean Duffy. The red card was reviewed post match and reduced to a yellow card, a frustrating but at least positive outcome for the Wildcats. The 15-0 halftime deficit put the Wildcats in the hole, but they showed fight in the 50th minute, with Flyhalf Robert Figley's two penalties from nearly halfway getting the hosts on the board. But unfortunately it was not enough for the Wildcats, as a late Ray Weiner try was all they could muster to drop this one to the Bears.

Duffy pointed to the progress but also to the path ahead for the program. "My first year, we lost to Cal 81-0. Since then a lot has changed. But I balk at the belief that just getting better is ok. We are, but we left points on the board. We gave Cal opportunities we shouldn't. Against this opponent, it seems to me that the culture in our game has not changed. We have played Cal six times in the past five years. In five of those six games, we've received a yellow or red card. This is not a fix. This is not rigged. This isn't Cal's doing either. And credit to Cal. But these are facts that I'm laying out and you can make your own conclusions about the culture of College Rugby, its referees, and how teams are perceived. The referee this week emailed me prior to the game telling me one of my players was 'struggling' in the match he watched us play. You tell me if that's appropriate. For him to have this card play such a big part in the match, then have it reversed speaks volumes."

Arizona now turns their attention to UCLA, with a visit to Los Angeles lined up before hosting Utah February 29th in their final regular season home match.

Scoring vs Cal

Tries: Weiner

Conv: Figley- 1/1

Pen: Figley- 2/4

Lineup vs Cal

1- Max Richins

2- Chris McBride

3- Raymond Weiner

4- Billy Esposito

5- James Rivers

6- Bronson Teles (C)

7- Ben Scoular

8- Riley Kerr

9- Maxime Cathala

10- Robert Figley

11- Matthew Start

12- Louis MacLaughlin

13- Lucas Bartzis (VC)

14- Kyle Fulton

15- Jon Rogers

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16- Gabe Coray-Dozier

17- Harry Bluck

18- Daniel Hagan

19- Jack McCrossin

20- Ethan Russell

21- Lucas Agasse

22- Solomon Hutchings

23- Mason Phillips

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