MARIETTA, Ga. — BYU's top-ranked rugby team traveled to No. 2 Life University for a Division 1 semifinal and beat the Mid-South champions 26-20 to advance to their seventh straight national championship game 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 its home field.
Trailing 26-5 the Running Eagles clawed their way back into the game behind two tries by All-American Cameron Dolan and flanker Andrew McNeil.
After 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, which played the majority of the game in its own half, would regain possession and hold on to the ball to run out the clock and win the game following a clearing kick from center Paul Lasike.
"We had to earn this one," BYU captain Ryan Roundy said. "Life is a very good team. And there's not a lot of teams, if any, who could come in here and beat them. I'm really proud of our guys for their guts and determination."
The Cougars started the game fast from an early try by prop Ray Forrester in the fourth 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. He 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 several occasions.
Eventually the BYU defensive patience led to three tries from the Cougars that would prove to be 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.
"Those last two tries were big obviously," said BYU head coach David Smyth. "Not only did we hold on because of those tries, but both came on the back of some tough defense, which was the name of the game."
The Cougars now move on to the national championship game for the seventh straight time Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy.
BYU will face a familiar foe in Arkansas State, a team that is making its first ever national title game appearance.
BYU has faced Arkansas State twice before — the first time in 2009 as the Cougars marched on to their first national title and most recently last year when the Cougars came from behind to beat the Red Wolves 36-15.
For ticket details and information on the Collegiate D1-A National Championship go to www.riotintostadium.com.
BYU 1st XV vs. Life
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- Mikey Su’a
- Ishmael Tilialo
- Ray Forrester (Joey Mount @ 30′)
- TJ Allred
- Kyle Sumsion
- Kumi Tua’one (Chad Harker @ 55′ front row sub)
- Hynie Leaaetoa
- Ryan Roundy ©
- Shaun Davies
- Dylan Lubbe
- Malosi Te’o
- Seki Kofe
- Paul Lasike (Chris Wernli @ 50′ blood sub)
- Will Taylor
- Tua Laei
BYU 26 Tries: Forrester 4′; Lubbe 13'; Lasike 37', 40' Conversions: Davies 3/4 (4', 13', 37') Penalties: Davies 0/1 (78')
LIFE 20 Tries: Dirksen 10'; Dolan 43'; McNeil 56' Conversions: Cowley 1/3 (56') Penalties: Cowley 1/3 (60')
The BYU Rugby program is one of the school's most winning sports teams with just 19 losses in over 20 years. BYU Rugby won the 2009 Collegiate National Championship and has promoted 28 players to All-American status. For more go to byurugby.com