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Chico State's Ian McLens

In the rematch of last year’s Pac West Conference final, Chico State (5-1) stayed in second place, this season, with a 48-28 win over Stanford (4-2). The first half featured hard fought play in the forwards with the Cardinal inching a 14-12 advantage. The Wildcats pulled away in the second half with Stanford giving chase.

“Chico State showed real class today,” Wildcats head coach Lucas Bradbury stated. “I was extremely impressed with how all the senior players played, in front of the huge home crowd. JW Davis and Brandon Johnson played almost perfect rugby, showing how it should be done in the forwards and in the backs, not giving an inch, but taking a mile.”

Both clubs traded tries back and forth in the first half. Stanford scored first off a driving maul from a lineout, with Jovi Ripert dotting down to silence the hometown crowd. Chico State struck back quickly out wide with inside center Matt “Potato” Zarchin crossing the line to make the score 7-5 Stanford.

With 15 minutes to go in the first half, Stanford’s Patrick Crowley scored, and Sam Falkenhagen converted, taking the score line to 14-5. With less than five minutes on the clock before the halftime, Chico States lock Mason Lammers muscled his way over after great phase play by his forwards. Fullback Danny Lalor made the conversion, bringing the score to 14-12 at the break. 

During halftime, Coach Bradbury made the necessary adjustments for his club to break through. “We noticed that Stanford’s backs were weak, so at the half time break, we shifted our game plan to exploit their weakness,” he said.

Chico State came out of the half firing to put up 14 points in the first five minutes. Outside center JW Davis ran over the opposing fullback twice to score both of his team’s tries under the posts. Lalor notched both conversions to give the Wildcats the 26-14 lead. With 20 minutes to go, Chico State padded its lead with a long-range penalty kick from 40 meters out by Lalor.

An intercept try by Stanford center Chris Fernandes broke Chico State’s momentum, and once the kick was converted, the Cardinal were only down by eight points. The unlucky pass would not unravel the Wildcats, as the forwards took control of the ball, and prop Ian McLens carried two defenders over the line. Once again, Lalor provided the conversion for the 36-21 score.  

Taking advantage of a flat Chico State backline, Stanford’s Jack Chabolla came up quickly and picked off the pass to score under posts. Falkenhagen converted the kick to bring the advantage to 36-28.

Only down by eight points, Stanford was in striking distance but needed possession. Chico State kept the ball in the forwards, and its determination paid off in the last moments, as lock Brandon Johnson scored off of successive pick-and-goes at the try line.

“I think we had a pretty strong first half and a really poor three minute period to start the second half where we gave up essentially identical scores form the kickoff which really hurt us,” Stanford head coach Matt Sherman.

“Overall, the positives were that everybody played physical, but I think we struggled in some transitions in kick chase areas from the restarts that really cost us. Credit to Chico State, they are deserving victors and they are an improved team from last year. Big, physical, skilled, and they play hard.”

In other Pac West action, UC Davis (6-0) stayed undefeated with a 61-5 win over Sacramento State (3-2), San Jose State (3-3) beat Fresno State (1-5) 26-12, and San Francisco State (0-6) forfeited to Nevada (4-2).