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UCLA edged Kutztown in an instant classic and Cal drubbed Arizona to make it an all-California final at the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship. The Bruins and Bears played in back-to-back semifinals in 2013 and 2014, both competitive games won by Cal.
Cal 38-5 Arizona
The opening restart wasn’t taken cleanly, but Cal secured possession eventually, and Anthony Salaber crossed the whitewash in the opening minute but couldn’t ground the ball. The Bears won the ensuing scrum, and Russell Webb split two Arizona defenders for the try, which he converted himself.
The Bears didn’t waste any time getting back in the try zone, pinning Arizona deep in its own end with the kickoff. Will Fuller was the beneficiary this time, as he took the space on offer and scored casually. He added a second score shortly thereafter, cutting back against the grain after a Wildcat penalty. Webb converted the first, but missed the second – 21-0.
Cal caught Arizona sleeping on the restart, as Webb chipped the kickoff ahead and it was easily collected. All too easily, Salaber breezed in for his first try of the game. Webb missed the points after, and Cal led 26-0 going into halftime.
Cal emptied its bench early in the second half, and freshman Fawzi Kawash came on to score. Niclas Boyer converted, extending the lead even further.
It took until the 12th minute for Arizona to have its first attacking possession of the match, and but it ended in a knock-on. Arizona won the ball back, and freshman Matt Rogers was able to squirm his way into the try zone. Fuller then capped off his hat-trick to end close out the game.
UCLA 14-12 Kutztown
Both the Bruins and Golden Bears came into the contest wanting to assert their will at the breakdown, resulting in a frenzy of turnovers in the early goings. The aggressive tactics came back to bite UCLA, as Seb Sharpe was penalized for entering a defensive ruck from the side, and Kutztown’s Robert Stortz scored on the attacking penalty play. John Sage converted to put KU up 7-0, and solid defense by both teams prevented any more scores before the half.
UCLA struck back through Devin Lim immediately in the second half. It took a few phases and handful of offloads, but Lim was able to cut back inside of Stortz and run uder the posts. Cian Barry converted to tie the game at 7-7.
The Bruins’ restart didn’t go 10, giving Kutztown a free kick at midfield, and then a UCLA penalty opened the door for Alex Faison-Donahoe to charge to the five-meter line. Murphy Lill then picked from the base of the ruck and dove over. The conversion was missed - 12-7.
Star senior Seb Sharpe then made something from nothing, dancing through the Kutztown defense deep into the attacking end. Pierre Courpon came up big in support and found Niall streaking for the tying try. Cian slotted the conversion, putting UCLA up 14-12 with just over a minute to play. UCLA was able to get possession and run the clock out to advance.