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Cal Poly’s victory over Cal on Saturday was the first time since 2004 that the Cal Bears lost a non-playoff game to a US-based college.
Oddly, that time it was Cal Poly, too. Cal ran out a second side against an outstanding Cal Poly outfit in a friendly, losing the game but gaining valuable insight into the team they would ultimately play (and beat) in the 2004 national final.
This time around, Cal did run out a largely freshman squad, but ran on a few well-known faces late. Didn’t matter. Cal Poly 22-20. Mustangs Head Coach David Burnett was quick to point out that his squad wasn’t exactly brimming with experience either.
“Our man of the match, scrumhalf Tommy Leacox, was playing his third A-side game,” Burnett said. Center Andrew Early, who scored the winner at full time, has been playing rugby for ten months.
“It was blindside flanker Michael Dumelle’s first start in the A side, and he has been playing rugby for four months,” added Burnett. “Our 4 and 5 were reserve second rowers a few weeks ago.”
Openside flanker Matt Ryan is a freshman. You get the point.
In the end the result indicates that Cal Poly might just be a pretty good rugby team. As usual they go into games with plenty of commitment and physicality. While that 2004 produced a group of players who made the US national team, or came close, you never know if this version is that good. But certainly they did something to be proud of.
“It was a great result yesterday for a team that had a ton of belief in their own ability and didn't given up at any point,” said Burnett.
That’s a start.