Rugby: Cougars beat Utes — just barely

Published: Sunday, March 11 2007 12:10 a.m. MST

BYU's Steve St. Pierre, left, and T.J. Allred try to wrestle the ball away from Utah's Tom Bunnell.

August Miller, Deseret Morning News

Enlarge photo»

BYU rugby coach Dave Smyth was absolutely livid following Saturday's showdown with arch-rival Utah.

Although they defeated the Utes 21-20, the Cougars let what had been a rout turn into a nail-biter. And Smyth gave the Cougars a tongue-lashing that they won't soon forget.

"We were over on the sideline having heart attacks when we should have been at Sonic having drinks," he told his team after the game. "A fair score for this game would have been 28-6. We need to take what happened today and learn from it."

Smyth's estimate might have been a little on the conservative side. The Cougars came out sharp, scoring early and often en route to a 21-6 halftime lead.

"In the first half, I think we got out well," said Smyth. "We had a specific game plan, and we stuck to it."

The Utes, meanwhile, seemed utterly determined to lose the game in dramatic fashion. They were plagued by early penalties and a sub-par kicking game gave the Cougars good field position time and time again.

To make matters worse, the Utes failed to cross the goal line in the first half; their only points of the half came on a pair of penalty kicks.

"We were more physical than they were in the first half," said Smyth. "We didn't make many mistakes, and we took advantage of theirs."

In the second half, however, it was suddenly BYU's turn to look shell-shocked.

The Utes came out of the break swinging, and it wasn't long before they found the offensive rhythm that had escaped them for the game's first 40 minutes. Utah picked up one try on a penalty, and the second, which Pete Black set up with a long run, brought them within one point of the Cougars.

Unfortunately for the Utah faithful, the Utes squandered several scoring opportunities. They missed a penalty kick early in the second half, and a knock-on at the goal line cost them what should have been an easy try.

Smyth is happy with the win. But not too happy.

"Mentally, we're not where we need to be," he said. "We keep making the same mistakes, and we still haven't learned how to kill a game."


E-mail: tquinn@desnews.com

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