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Ten-years ago this March, perennial collegiate champion California scheduled a home game at Witter Field with the New York Athletic Club, the reigning Super League Champion. The two divisional powerhouses would meet in an unofficial "Battle of US Rugby Contest," a one-game, winner take all for the title.
The idea for the match originated with Cal coach, Jack Clark, who noticed an open date on the Bears' schedule. What better way to give his team a quality match early in the season than to meet the potent NYAC?
The two NYAC coaches, Mike Tolkin and Bruce McClean, were eager to play a competitive match in temperate weather outside of New York. Once they agreed to the "friendly," they arranged another game with the Olympic Club (Division 1) in nearby San Francisco.
In the U.K. and Ireland, historically, universities also played club teams. But here in the US, Cal stopped playing clubs in the early 1990s to concentrate on the college game. Cal could count on five All-Americans (Biller, Dorosti, Donnelly, Lindsey, and Stanfill.) In 2006, they had already won eleven games with no loss, including a win over Canadian rival University of British Columbia
The NYAC had yet to play a game, and had practiced outdoors in Arctic conditions, often wearing wool mittens and caps. Their first contest, the same day as arriving in the Bay Area, constituted a loss to the Olympic Club 27-15 on Thursday night.
On Saturday, 1,300 spectators filled the Witter Field complex.
The teams battled almost even in the first half with Winged Foot ahead 10-7 at the break.
However, the more fit Cal players (average age: 21) with two months of competition seemed one step ahead of the rusty NYAC ruggers (average age: 30). The Bears pulled away in the second period, eventually leading 33-15. The NYAC found a second wind in the last few minutes, scoring two tries, and adding 12-points. The whistle blew and Cal had vanquished the visitors 33-27.
Tolkin was gracious in defeat, thanking Clark and the Bears for the opportunity to play, and saying, "Cal represents everything right about collegiate rugby."