Los Angeles, Calif. - The BYU Cougars beat the UCLA Bruins for the second time this season to advance to the semifinals of the Varsity Cup National Collegiate Rugby Championships.
BYU ran in 10 tries with wing Chris Wernli dotting down for a hat-trick of tries and beating the Bruins by the final score of 69-8.
The Bruins and Cougars met in January with BYU winning 84-14, but Saturday's quarterfinal matchup saw an improved UCLA team, said BYU head coach David Smyth.
"We were a little rusty not having played in three weeks," Smyth said. "At the start of the game I thought were were just doing enough, UCLA played very well defensively and they contested every phase. [UCLA head coach] Scott Stewart has really done a great job with his guys and they played confidently throughout the game."
According to Smyth, the Cougars took some time to knock off the rust, with a variety of penalties, and errors gave UCLA a share of field position and possession in the opening five minutes of the game.
But a solid sequence in couter attack led to junior flanker Kyle Sumsion scoring the opening try of the game in the sixth minute.
The first half was riddled with BYU errors in an effort to counter UCLA's stiff defensive pressure at the break down. But the Cougars managed to not only control the majority of the field position, with over 65 percent in BYU's favor, but they also were able to keep the Bruins out of the end goal.
"We weren't as effective as we should have been in the first half," BYU captain Ryan Roundy said. "It's been a couple weeks since we played, so we were making a couple miscues that normally I don't think our guys would typically make. But in the end we were able to get it sorted and get back into a bit of a groove and keep them from scoring in the first half."
BYU's groove came in the form of junior wing Chris Wernli who scored the next three tries to help put the Cougars up 24-3 by the 48th minute with UCLA's lone points coming in the first half from a 20 meter penalty kick.
BYU would muster better possession and attacking options in the second half, which led to the Cougars' seven second half tries.
"At halftime we talked about ball security and being more effective in the rucks" Smyth said. "The boys did a better job managing the breakdown and enabling us to get on the front foot more, as a result we had a much better second half and were able to finish strongly."
Cougar kicker Jonny Linehan was also able to notch a solid 9 out of 11 kicks, many of which were wide-angled conversion attempts.
BYU now sets back to Provo to host the Wildcats of CWU this Saturday, April 27 at 1 p.m. on South Field in the semifinal round of the Varsity Cup National Collegiate Rugby Championship.
CWU met the Cougars in Seattle last year with the Cougars prevailing 76-7. But Smyth cautioned, that like UCLA, CWU is a better team than when the Cougars and the Wildcats last met.
"CWU is a quality rugby program," Smyth said. "They beat Air Force confidently today and have some play makers in the backline and the forwards. We'll have to be on our best this week."
CWU beat the Air Force Academy in other Western Super-Regional play at UCLA, 81-28.
CWU's head coach Tony Pacheco was pleased with his team's performance against the Air Force Academy.
"Proud of the way the team played and responded to a physical opponent in Air Force," Pacheco said. "We will need to be more accurate going into BYU and certainly look forward to another great Varsity Cup competition."
The Cougars and Wildcats clash will be broadcast live and on-demand on the Varsity Cup YouTube channel.
In related Varsity Cup action, California beat Notre Dame 77-0 to advance to the semifinals. The Golden Bears will host the Naval Academy in Berkeley after the Midshipmen shut out a strong Dartmouth team 32-0.
Cal and Navy will also play their Varsity Cup semifinal on April 27 with a kickoff time and broadcast plans still to be announced.
Match summary: BYU vs. UCLA – April 20, 2013
BYU 1st XV
Ishmael Tilialo (Scott Gowdy 48')
Colin Bush (Jeff Ott 55'; Braden Bair 65')
Dan Hubert (Kaiona Dutro 65')
Ryan Roundy (c)
Luke Mocke (Inoke Funaki 65')
Seki Kofe (Lelann Latu 68')
Will Taylor (Andrew Carver 65')
BYU: 69 Tries: Sumsion, Wernli 3, Linehan 2, Mocke, Lowry, Carver, Taylor Conversions: Linehan 8/10 Penalties: Linehan 1/1 (40')
UCLA: 8 Tries: UCLA 54' Conversions: 0/1 Penalties: 22' (1/1)
The BYU Rugby program is one of the school's most winning sports teams with just 19 losses in more than 20 years. BYU Rugby won the 2009 and 2012 Collegiate National Championship & has promoted 40 All-Americans. For more go to byurugby.com.