Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
PROVO — Saturday's meeting between BYU's rugby team and Cal at Rio Tinto Stadium marks the sixth straight year that the Cougars and Bears have squared off in college rugby's national championship game.
Both teams come into Saturday's final undefeated in both regular season and conference play, with BYU carrying a 15-0 record and a College Premier Division Western Conference championship this season.
Meanwhile, Cal has logged a 26-0 overall record and a CPD Pacific Conference championship, having beat its opposition in conference play by an average score of 78-11.
Head-to-head the Bears have tamed the Cougars over the two schools' historic rivalry with a 7-1 overall record and 4-1 record in championship play, which dates back consecutively to 2006.
Since 1980 Cal has ruled the college rugby world with 25 national championships, 21 of which have come under the direction of current Bears head coach Jack Clark, who is the 130-year-old program's winningest coach with a 496-68-5 record.
The Bears currently boast a 52-game winning streak that dates back to their last loss, which ironically came at the hands of BYU in 2009 when the Cougars upset Cal in the national championship game.
"There's not much difference in this Cal team as opposed to last year's," said BYU head coach David Smyth. "In fact, I think they might even be a little bit better this year than they were last year. I think their backline is even more potent than it was last year and their forwards continue to dominate. They're big and physical. So, I expect it will be more of the same, but even better."
The Bears are captained by All-American and 2010 USA 7's National Team Member and senior fullback Blaine Scully, who also leads the team in scoring with nine tries. The well-rounded Cal attack also has senior flanker Thomas Rooke, with eight CPD tries and junior wing James McTurk, who hails from England, having dotted down eight times as well.
Senior South African flyhalf James Bailes manages the Cal attack while also leading the Bears in CPD scoring with 100 points. Key to the Cal attack are 2010 All-Americans sophomore center and strike runner Seamus Kelly and junior No. 8 Danny Barrett, who at 6 foot 2, 212 pounds moves ably like his speedy back line team mates.
The Cougars will look to counter the potent Cal attack and defense with a variety of skill, power and speed.
BYU All American and junior captian No. 8 Ryan Roundy will look to lead from the front with his hard running and tackling. Roundy leads the CPD this year in tries scored with 21.
Cougar junior All American scrumhalf Shaun Davies, who leads the CPD in scoring with 191 points, will also look to manage the BYU attack and defensive play through his leadership and communication.
Meanwhile, Davies' halfback counterpart, junior All American flyhalf Dylan Lubbe, will look to set the expansive BYU attack away.
Up front the Cougars will lean on junior All American prop Mikey Su'a to provide power and balance to the speed and skill of Roundy, Davies and Lubbe. Freshman center Jared Whippy will look add some of his flair and kicking prowess to keep the Cal defense guessing.
With Cal having pummeled the University of Utah in last Saturday's semifinal, 62-14, and BYU's having struggled with a strong Arkansas State before winning 36-15, many are saying the Bears overall championship history and late-season form give Cal the definitive edge over BYU.
"People will give their opinions one way or another," said Smyth. "But both programs know this game is going to be a battle and the team that plays the best on the day will win. Cal is a good team, but then again so are we. We're looking forward to Saturday."
Saturday's championship encounter will begin at 7 p.m. inside Rio Tinto Stadium. Tickets can be purchased online at www.riotintostadium.com.
The CPD title game will cap off a full day of championship rugby at Rio Tinto Stadium, as the high school and U19 National Championships will take place there earlier in the day, at 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. respectively.
Live coverage of the CPD title match will be streamed online at ESPN3.com, with tape delay broadcast set for Sunday morning at 8 a.m. on ESPNU.
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