MARIETTA, Ga. — The No. 8 Cougars traveled to No. 2 Life University for the D1-A rugby semifinal and beat the Mid-South champions 26-20 to advance to their 7th straight national championship game next Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium.
In a very physical and tactical match, BYU took an early lead and held on late to beat a strong Life team on their field.
After being down 26-5, the Running Eagles clawed their way back into the game on back of two tries by All American No. 8 Cameron Dolan and flanker Andrew McNeil.
With an additional penalty goal by fullback Joe Cowley, Life was on the verge of coming back in the final quarter of the game.
But BYU, who played the majority of the game in their own half, would regain possession and hold on to the ball to run out the clock and win the game following the clearing kick from center Paul Lasike.
The Cougars started the game fast from an early try from prop Ray Forrester in the 4th minute. A tough angled conversion by scrumhalf Shaun Davies had BYU leading 7-0 in Marietta.
Life would come back quickly with a chip kick that bounced back into the arms of Cowley who then passed to a supporting scrum half Cornelius Dirksen who scored Life's opening try in the 10th minute. BYU would still lead 7-5 after the Life try was unconverted.
But as Life controlled more field position and possession the BYU defense was committed and repelled the Life attack on more than one occasion.
Eventually the BYU defensive patience led to three tries from the Cougars that would prove the difference in the game.
The first came from fly half Dylan Lubbe who intercepted a Life pass to sprint the remaining 60 meters for the try. And the remaining two were from center Paul Lasike manufacturing a duo of tries late in the first half.
BYU will face a familiar foe in Arkansas State, which reached its first-ever national title bout.
At Old Westbury, N.Y., Preston Olson dealt a two-hit shutout and set a new school record with 16 strikeouts to lead Utah Valley University to a 10-0 win and a doubleheader sweep at NYIT, extending the nation's longest winning streak to 31 games.
Olson's dominating performance in the second game of the twin bill came after the Wolverines (38-11, 23-0 GWC) nearly saw the streak end in Game 1. In the seven-inning opener, UVU scored twice in the top of the seventh to pick up a come-from-behind win, 4-3.
Goose Kallunki, who was out of the lineup battling back spasms, delivered a pinch-hit, game-tying single in the seventh and came in to score the winning run on a double by Jake Rickenbach. The Bears had the tying run at third with two outs in the bottom of the seventh but Taylor Mangum struck out Sebastian Grazziani to end it.
NYIT did all of its scoring on a three-run home run from Michael Fermin in the first inning and nearly rode that to the upset win.
Willie Pratt's two-out double in the second brought home two runs before the Wolverines found themselves down a run entering the final frame. Taylor Berg got the inning started with an infield single and moved to second on a throwing error. Cole Butcher then pinch ran for Berg and scored on Kallunki's single.
Berg and Rickenbach both had two hits for UVU while Mangum picked up the win and moved to 4-0 after throwing two scoreless frames.
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