After defeating Army in the round of 16 and losing to Cal in the quarterfinals of the national championships, the Cal Poly rugby club team finished ranked sixth nationally by American Rugby News.
The Mustangs opened the National Guard Men’s Collegiate Championships in Albuquerque, N.M. by topping Army 50-27 April 18 before falling 74-6 to top seed Cal a day later.
In spite of the loss at the hands of the eventual champion Golden Bears, Cal Poly team captain and senior open-side flanker Jesse Dundon said the season went well.
“We won a lot of games and showed everyone what Cal Poly rugby is all about,” he said. “It was a fun game, and really, there’s no better way to go out than to lose to Cal.”
Trenton Yackzan, a senior lock for the Mustangs, shared Dundon’s outlook.
“Beating our rival UC Santa Barbara was fun, and beating Army so well in the playoffs was awesome,” he said. “That kind of established how good we are. We beat Penn State, an East Coast rugby team. That made a statement and showed the nation how good we are.”
Cal Poly, which finished 16-4, lost only to playoff teams.
San Diego State won a Southern California Rugby Football Union game against Cal Poly to earn the highest standing in the league by a game. Consequently, the Aztecs were awarded the seventh seed, one higher than Cal Poly, and eventually collided with No. 2 seed BYU in a closer, 37-14 loss in the quarterfinals.
Even with its rout of Cal Poly aside, Cal decimated the competition, winning its three other outings by a combined margin of 202-41.
Two penalty kicks by sophomore right wing Martine Phelan were all the Mustangs could muster in their season-ending defeat.
“That’s how it goes,” Yackzan said. “We always end up in the toughest bracket.”
Cal Poly made it to the championship in 2004 before losing to Cal 46-24.
“We can compete with them physically – we just need more strategy,” Yackzan said. “Cal scouts teams out; that’s why they’re so good.”
Yackzan added the Golden Bears’ tremendous depth allowed them to rest their entire starting lineup against Tennessee during a 102-3 opening-round win, leaving their starters fresh for Cal Poly.
“They’re phenomenal – an unstoppable force,” Dundon said of the Golden Bears, who finished 17-1 by crushing BYU 59-7 to claim their fifth consecutive title, and 24th overall.
Cal Poly, though, remains upbeat about the future.
Three Mustangs – sophomore eight man Alex Murchison, junior fly half Luke Council and junior outside center Jeff Van Meter – were named May 7 to the American Rugby News All-American Team.
Perhaps even more promising, Dundon said, is that only five starters will be lost to graduation.
“The team is stoked to start training again and get some revenge on Cal,” he said.