UBC Thunderbirds 2017

February 19 2017

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Thunderbirds Win First Game of "World Cup" Series Versus Cal Bears 28-17

from UBC Rugby
posted Feb 19 2017

BERKELEY, CA – California mounted a second-half surge but could not come all the way back Saturday against UBC on Witter Rugby Field, as the Bears fell 28-17 to the Thunderbirds in the first leg of the 2017 "World Cup" series.

UBC (9-2, 2-0 Premier) got two tries apiece from lock Sam Clark and the winger Manar Kulkhan, all four converted by Adam McQueen. The inside center's only miss from the tee was a 51-meter penalty attempt that fell short in the 21st minute.

The Bears (11-1, 3-0 PAC) shut out the Thunderbirds in the final 40 minutes and got tries from Drew Gaffney and Fawzi Kawash following a first-half penalty kick from flyhalf Russell Webb.

Wind was a factor as it blew west to east at over 30 kilometres per hour, which assisted kicks at times but more often thwarted lineout throws.

UBC's veteran frontline of Clint Lemkus, Alex Mascotte and Chris Taylor were a force that the Bears could not counter for large stretches of the match.

The two sides will meet in the second leg of Rugby's World Cup on March 5th at Thunderbird Stadium.

Scoring Summary

12:00 UBC (Sam Clark) 5, (Adam McQueen) 2

23:00 UBC (Manar Kulkan) 5, (Adam McQueen) 2

30:00 UBC (Sam Clark) 5, (Adam McQueen) 2

34:00 Russell Webb 3

39:00 UBC (Manar Kulkan) 5, (Adam McQueen) 2

Halftime Score: California 28, British Columbia 3

77:00 Drew Gaffney 5, Russell Webb 2

80:00 Fawzi Kawash 5, Russell Webb 2

Final Score: California 28, British Columbia 17

UBC Thunderbirds Take on Cal Bears in California on Saturday: Game One of "World Cup" Series

by Cal Athletics
posted Feb 17 2017

BERKELEY – The Golden Bears prepare to meet the British Columbia Thunderbirds 2 p.m. Saturday, February 18, on Witter Rugby Field, where California aims to turn the tides against a powerful UBC team.

"I've seen a lot of really good UBC teams over the years, but I can't ever remember one this loaded," said Bears head coach Jack Clark. "They are a big and highly experienced team."

Admission to Saturday's "World Cup" kickoff is free for all Cal students, active military personnel and children under 10 when the gates open at 11 a.m., and action begins at 11:15 with a high-school curtain raiser between Granite Bay and Solo. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for seniors and youth 10-19, and $3 for groups of 10 or more, with advance online purchases available at calbea.rs/RugbySpring2017. Saturday's match also airs live in Pac-12 Network's Bay Area market with cable-carrier credentials also providing access to the broadcast via pac-12.com and the Pac-12 Now app.

Cal (11-0, 3-0 PAC) has won 10 of the last 15 "World Cup" series, named after the World Newspaper of Vancouver, Canada, where the trophy for the series was first awarded to the team with the better aggregate annual score in 1921. The conclusion to the 2017 series takes place Sunday, March 5, in Vancouver at Thunderbird Stadium, kickoff time to be announced.

The 2016 "World Cup" series got off to a dramatic start last spring on Witter Rugby Field, where the Bears and UBC fought through four lead changes before a late penalty kick by the T-Birds cemented their 20-15 decision. British Columbia went on to sweep the 2016 series, the first for UBC over Cal since 2004.

The Bears, yet to be challenged this spring in a schedule that is back-loaded in difficulty, swept a doubleheader against Arizona State and Cal Poly in their last outing on February 4, scoring 19 tries in the process.

British Columbia (8-2, 2-0 Premier) has notched seven of their eight wins against senior men's clubs, knocking off Capilano, Burnaby Lake, Meraloma, Abbotsford, and Vancouver Rowing Club, and avenged both its losses with victorious rematches, most recently storming back to rout Ravens RFC, 32-14, on January 28. UBC destroyed University of Victoria, 51-14, to win the Wightman Boot for the second straight year, and against U.S. competition, the 'Birds buried the Seattle Saracens, one of the nation's top senior men's clubs, 44-15 in November.

UBC, which enters the weekend with extra rest following the cancellation of its February 4 league match against Capilano due to weather, "features the most generous scholarship offerings in Canada," according to its website, adding, "Players from overseas are also eligible for additional scholarship funding." Veteran names with an array of accolades are apparent throughout the 'Birds lineup.

Starting in the No. 1 jersey for the Thunderbirds is likely to be Clint Lemkus from Capetown, South Africa, where he played for nearby University of Stellenbosch after previously playing as a professional for Crociati (Crusaders) RFC in Parma, Italy. Last spring he completed his final season at Central Washington University, where he exhausted his U.S. collegiate eligibility before looking north of the border to play for UBC.

Next to Lemkus at hooker has been Chris Taylor, a former Ireland U-20 international, followed by tighthead prop Neil Courtney, a former U-20 international for Canada. "It's nearly 800 pounds of front row," coach Clark said, "and they're every bit that strong."

The international experience continues through the forwards, including lock Thomas Roche, a former Canada U-20 international; flankers Jake Ikeda, who played for British Columbia's U-20 representative side, and Nakai Penny, a former U-20 international for Canada; and No. 8 Connor Hamilton, who formerly captained Canada's U-20 team.

The backline for UBC is likewise brimming with international experience, starting with the mercurial scrumhalf Jorden Sandover-Best, a former U-20 international for Canada. It continues with flyhalf Theo Sauder, a former Canada U-20 international; center Adam McQueen, a former Canada U-20 international; Nate Rees, a 28-year-old former Wales U-20 international and former player with Cardiff RFC; Manar Kulkhan, a dangerous 25-year-old on the left wing; Cole Keffer, a former Canada U-20 international on the other wing; and Andrew Coe, the former Canada U-20 international who scored two of his three tries in the 2016 "World Cup" series on his last visit to Witter Rugby Field.

"The age of a few of their players is a non-issue," said Clark. "They play in a completely different competition system, the BC senior club competition, and their matches with Cal are a one-off."

By comparison, Cal has cultivated out of necessity a lineup this spring that includes many freshmen and sophomores, several of whom could be called upon for the biggest match of their careers this weekend.

The Bears may feature an 18-year-old freshman at one prop, Damon Wiley, and a freshman hooker in Sid Holland, both new to the collegiate ranks and their positions in the front row. Sophomore lock Robert Paylor will likely pair with Connor Sweet in the second row, while freshman Thomas Spradling and sophomore Nic Mirhashem are in the hunt for backrow selections. Drew Gaffney, coming off his three-try performance against ASU, could be the choice at No. 8 in place of the injured Thomas Robles.

In the backline, halfback duties could be decided between freshman Keanu Andrade and sophomore Fawzi Kawash. The midfield, the most experienced Cal unit, looks to stay consistent, with flyhalf Russell Webb, inside center Anthony Salaber and outside center Patrick Barrientes the likely choices. The deep three could be comprised of Jake Goena and freshman Sam Cusano, who just had his 19th birthday, on the wings, and sophomore Troy Lockyear at fullback.

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