BYU rugby: Cougars advance to eighth straight national title match with win over CWU
Provo, Utah — The BYU Cougars advanced to their eighth straight national championship game Saturday by beating the Central Washington Wildcats, 53-20, on South Field in the semifinals of the Varsity Cup.
BYU had to overcome an early deficit after falling behind by eight points, 15-7, in the 22nd minute of the first half.
But 46 unanswered points over the next 50 minutes of the game gave the Cougars the victory.
BYU started the scoring first with junior fullback Will Taylor dotting down in the sixth minute following a junior center Seki Kofe's midfield linebreak. Freshman flyhalf Jonny Linehan converted, and the Cougars led 7-0.
CWU responded in kind with a driving maul from five meters out that led to lock Sean Wanigasekera's opening Wildcat try in the 11th minute.
Another series of possession exchanges and a BYU penalty led to CWU fullback Alex Reher's penalty kick 15th minute and a CWU lead of 8-7.
Some errors by both sides followed until CWU flyhalf Max Nawerski split the BYU defense in the midfield that eventually led to Wildcat wing Josh Bower scoring from long distance in the 22nd minute.
A wide angle conversion by CWU's Reher pushed the Wildcats' lead to 15-7 giving the CWU sideline plenty to cheer about.
The Cougars weren't deterred however by CWU's early lead.
"They're [CWU] a good team," BYU captain Ryan Roundy said. "We knew they were going to come at us hard and in all credit to them they really had us on the ropes there. But I knew our guys had it in them and it was just about getting back to the basics and playing our game."
The Cougars did just that and used their game to get back into the game with tries from junior winger Chris Wernli and junior hooker Ishmael Tilialo in the 30th and 37th minutes, respectively.
At the break, the Cougars edged back into the lead 19-15 — a lead which BYU wouldn't relinquish.
“BYU is a quality program and we knew that coming into this match," CWU head coach Tony Pacheco said."We knew we needed to play without mental mistakes and we did that for 40 minutes. We played the first half extremely well at a level where we needed to be. In the second half, we had some momentum opportunities but we didn’t quite seize them. Hats off to BYU for putting it together and coming through some adversity in the first half.”
The second half started with CWU pressuring close to the BYU goal line, when senior prop Ray Forrester poached the Wildcats' ball in the 43rd minute.
The ball was passed wide through the BYU backline to Wernli who raced past the CWU defense 50 meters to finish the 90 meter-plus long try.
"That was a big play," BYU assistant coach Justen Nadauld said. "That could have dramatically changed how the course of the second half went had they been able to score. It really put the momentum in our direction and we were able to build on it."
BYU freshman scrum half Luke Mocke was next to score for the Cougars in the 51st minute after a deft chip and chase close to the sideline gave the young halfback his first try of the game.
Another try for the Cougars from Kofe in the 53rd minute was followed by a Linehan penalty that pushed the BYU lead out to 41-15.
Mocke squirmed his way for another short-range try in the 65th minute, which was followed by a final BYU try from Roundy in the 75th minute.
A late try from CWU in the 78th minute by replacement wing Shelby Williams rounded out the final score in favor of the Cougars, 53-20.
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