Ryan Chartrand

Despite losing several players to injuries early in the season, the Cal Poly Rugby Football club team ended the season 12-6 overall and sixth in the nation.

The team was first in the Southern California Rugby Football Union for the second year in a row. The Mustangs played nine league games with only one loss to San Diego State.

“Last year we swept league and this year we lost to SDSU, so that was disappointing,” Cal Poly sophomore Ryan Kaut said.

It was only a small disappointment, though, as Cal Poly went on to win its playoff opener 34-10 over Minnesota at Cal. The win sent the team to the round of eight, where it lost to BYU for the second year in a row.

Last year, the Mustangs’ loss to BYU ended their undefeated season. BYU won again this year by a score of 33-3 and went on to the national title game, where it lost to Cal.

“Next year we’re looking forward to winning another big championship and progressing further in playoffs than we did,” Cal Poly senior Gabe Escalera said.

“We had a young group this year, so it can only get progressively better,” Cal Poly junior Thomas Ramirez said.

Because of the injuries in the beginning of the season, freshmen had to fill larger roles, Kaut said. The team began with 11 returning starters, but had only two by the end of the season.

“Everybody was put on the spot to perform,” he said. “We have high hopes for next year because we have a lot of young guys returning and that should help us play a lot better together.”

One of the team’s favorite games was when it played at UC Santa Barbara and won 34-11 in front of a large UCSB contingent.

“It’s such a big rivalry between the both of us and we were able to keep the crowd quiet by beating them,” Escalera said.

While the team had trouble playing on the same page early in the season as the roster changed, it stepped up to win the league championship against the University of San Diego by a score of 76-17.

“Our biggest win by far was when we beat USD to clinch the league championship,” Kaut said. “We really came together to play as a unit.”

Over spring break, the team toured in Wales to prepare for the playoffs, playing against Ynysybwl and Pontypridd. The Mustangs, playing as SLO U23, lost their first game against Ynysybwl and then beat Pontypridd.

While there, the team was also able to train with professional coaches and watch a match between Newport Wales and Brive France.

The rugby team is divided into two sides, which are comparable to varsity and junior varsity squads. Each side plays the same amount of games during the regular season, but only the first side is eligible to reach the playoffs.

The season started in the middle of October and ended in April. At the end of the season, some of Cal Poly’s players were asked to join the league team, the SoCal Griffins.

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