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BYU rugby tops Utah Utes in Wasatch Cup

Published: Sunday, March 9 2008 12:08 a.m. MST

PROVO — A rugby team is broken up into two parts: eight forwards who provide the physical prowess to knock the opposition off the ball and seven backs who are the graceful speedsters who find gaps and slice through them.

A team that can use both parts well usually ends up winning. And if a squad has good forwards, it can usually pound out a victory.

BYU may have both components in its arsenal, but it was the front eight who led the Cougars on Saturday to a 30-27 win over Utah to capture their third straight Wasatch Cup. The victory also gave BYU a berth in the national round of 16 that will be held in mid-April in Albuquerque, N.M.

Surviving a late Ute comeback to get within three points with under 10 minutes left, the Cougars forwards ate up clock time and kept the ball close in hand before captain Steve St. Pierre sealed the match, plowing over the line late. Utah scored a try in injury time to keep the margin close.

"(With) these rivalry games, it's never over until it's over," said BYU coach David Smyth. "All credit to Utah, they came back strong."

In Utah's possession before St. Pierre's score, flyhalf Mike Harman scored the second of his two tries with a 5-yard run to give Utah a breath of hope.

Helping Utah's rally get going was BYU No. 8 Viliami Vimahi being sent off 10 minutes for a high tackle.

The Utes added a penalty right after Vimahi's sin-binning to stop BYU's run of 23 unanswered points.

BYU started its run when Derek Smith scored two tries in the first half and began to assert itself physically "We have a really good pack that set it up," Smith said. "It was a couple of designed plays where I crashed over and dotted it down."

"Our scrum wasn't as strong as we needed it to be," said Utah coach Dave Anderson. "That was pretty obvious."

Keeping the pressure on the Utes after halftime, BYU secured a turnover at midfield and swing the ball left to Vito Qaqa. He had an open field ahead of him and sprinted 50 yards for a try in the corner that put the Cougars up 23-10.

At the start of the match, though, Utah had the edge with the use of its speedy backs. Harman charged down a BYU kick in the opening few minutes. He had the luck of grabbing the ball on the trot and scampering 30 yards for an easy score.

"It's been a problem for us all year in starting out slowly," Smyth said. "We made a couple of early mistakes and they punished us for it."

Utah added a penalty several minutes later to go up 10-0.

In the end, Tim Stefliks' kicking turned out to be the difference for BYU as he kicked over two penalties and two conversions.

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