BYU hosted the reigning USA men’s division champs New York Athletic Club in early March, which resulted in a 22-16 in favor of NYAC. "The match literally turned on two or three mistakes," said Smyth, "They were a little more crafty than our boys were, but we finished very strong. If we'd had a little more time, we could have won the match. We had moments that we were not at our best, but there were moments we showed we could go toe-to-toe with anybody in the country."
The experience from those two games proved to be valuable.
The rest of the regular season wasn't much of a test: 91-3 over Utah State; 91-0 against Snow College; 98-3 vs. Southern Utah (which included having to shovel the snow off of their home field before playing); and a season high 112-0 against Dixie State.
The last of their canceled games was their late-season battle against Utah. That didn't happen because of Utah suspending their Rugby team for violating university policy. This was very disappointing for the Cougars, who look at their match against Utah as a great measuring stick for how they are playing.
This brings us to the post season, in what Smyth describes as "very unchartered waters."
In their search for a better option, BYU turned to themselves and seven other top programs from the top division of college rugby, and came up with 2013 Varsity Cup National Championship. The strength of those teams is evident, with 31 of the last 33 National Collegiate Championships having been won by one of the Varsity Cup teams. But really, at the end of the day, it was about bringing back a championship match between BYU and Cal.
BYU beat UCLA for the second time this year in the quarter finals, 69-8. Smyth was concerned since his team hadn't played for three weeks, but they "came out very well against an improved UCLA team."
Next came a semi-final match versus Central Washington. The Cougars came back to win, 53-20, but Smyth admitted, "They were the better team for about a 20-minute stretch, but two quick tries right before half took the wind out of their sails."
"A lot of teams we play will try hard for about four or five minutes, and then they give up," Linehan added, "But they came in and gave us a game."
Finally, it was time for the hoped for final. The matchup of seven of the last eight years to crown a national champion.
BYU vs. Cal
As BYU senior prop Ray Forrester put it, “It’s going to be a battle. One for the ages. One that will have a big impact on not only both universities’ rugby traditions, but also the future of collegiate rugby. It doesn’t get any more exciting.”
The early lead for BYU is 16-3, but Cal comes back and ties it up at 24 going into the waning minutes. Linehan wins it for BYU with a drop kick as time runs out.
As BYU senior captain Ryan Roundy said, "There's no better way to go out. You couldn't ask for a better scenario for my last game of my college career. To be able to beat Cal in my last game, and for it to come down to the last drop kick — it was picture-perfect. It was awesome. You couldn't ask for a better finish."
Todd Hougaard is a graduate of Brigham Young University and a Utah native. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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