BYU rugby: Cougars weather rain and tough Navy team to advance to Varsity Cup championship
The BYU Cougars weathered the rainy and windy conditions Saturday on South Field to beat the formidable Naval Academy Midshipmen to advance to the Varsity Cup championship by the score of 60-0.
With the wet and soggy conditions, BYU was able to hold a stout Navy team in check and garner the first shut out of the season while also notching a lopsided score against the No. 5 ranked Naval Academy.
“I thought we started the game well given the conditions,” BYU head coach David Smyth said. “And overall we put together a solid performance that we can certainly build on moving into the championship game next week.”
The scoring started in the fifth minute with center Jared Whippey dotting down after a well constructed kicking exchange by BYU that saw the Cougars with a lineout just outside of the Naval Academy goal line.
More sustained field position control by BYU saw winger Chris Wernli take a cut back pass to bully his way the final five meters for the game's second try.
The Cougars continued to manage the wet conditions with a strong kicking game that kept Navy pinned in its half of the field.
BYU flyhalf Jonny Linehan was the next Cougar player to take advantage of the field position with a penalty kick in the 17th minute.
A barging run from two-sport athlete and rugby All-American center Paul Lasike in the 29th minute coupled with a deft dummy and run from hooker Zane Mendenhall pushed the BYU lead to 29-0 at the halftime break.
"We’ve not had the best starts to some of our past games,” BYU captain Kyle Sumsion said. “But I think we did a good job getting out on these guys early, playing solid defense and we never let up. Anytime you shut out a team, especially one as good as Navy, you’re going to be happy.”
The second half was more of the same as fullback Josh Whippey sliced his way through the Navy defense for a strong 60 meter try in the 41st minute.
Wernli would dot down again in the 59th minute after a period of weather-related errors by both teams and the Cougars were holding a 39-0 lead.
As BYU made some substitutions, the backups offered some fresh energy with No. 8 Joe Pikula being the beneficiary of a pushover scrum and try in the 65th minute.
Reserves Steve Saia and Josh Anderson also garnered a try a piece to push the final scoreline to 60-0 for the Cougars.
With the victory, the Cougars move on to their ninth straight national championship game with the hope of garnering the program’s third straight title and fourth in six years.
The Cougars will meet the California Golden Bears for the Varsity Cup National Championship with the Golden Bears having beat Central Washington University, 58-14.
California owns a record 26 national championships with the most recent coming in 2011 over the Cougars by the score 21-14.
California and BYU have met in eight of the nine title appearances that the Cougars have made dating back to 2006 with California owning the overall title series, 6-2.
BYU’s two victories over the Golden Bears came in 2009 and 2013.
BYU won’t travel far for the Varsity Cup National Championship as the title bout will be played at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, UT. Kickoff for the championship fixture is set for 2 p.m. MT.
The Varsity Cup National Championship will be broadcast live on the NBC Sports channel.
For more information including ticket information and event details on the Varsity Cup National Championship go to the Varsity Cup website.
Kelby Jones is a student at BYU studying public relations and currently writes for BYU Rugby.
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