No. 3 BYU rugby jumped ahead of No. 9 Utah early Friday night and was able to hang on to win, 41-21, in front of a standing-room-only crowd at South Field. With the victory, the Cougars beat the Utes for the ninth time in 10 tries to keep the Wasatch Cup in Provo for another year.
“I thought we played very well,” BYU head coach David Smyth said. “Any time we play Utah it’s a battle and we expect nothing less. That’s exactly what we got tonight.”
Friday’s game got off to a slow start as neither team was able to score early. The first points of the game came in the 18th minute when Kody Thompson scored for BYU. The Cougars jumped to a 17-0 lead on a penalty kick by Johnny Linehan and the first of three tries on the night by Jordan Lowry. Utah finally got on the board in the 31st minute, but the Cougars went into the half with a 22-7 lead.
“The past few games we’ve had a really hard time scoring early,” Lowry said. “I feel like that changed in this game and we were able to score a lot more earlier on.”
BYU rode it’s momentum into the second half with two tries in the 46th and 52nd minutes. Utah answered with two tries in the 60th and 68th minutes to make the game interesting, but the Utes comeback fell short as BYU’s Leland Latu scored in the 75th minute to give the Cougars the victory.
“When we get up, it seems like we get comfortable and maybe take our foot off the gas a little bit,” Lowry said. “That’s something that we’ll definitely work on in practice to get right going into the Varsity Cup.”
BYU captain Kyle Sumsion played for the first time after missing three games while travelling with the USA Men’s National Team, and his impact was immediately felt by the Cougars. While Sumsion didn’t score any points, BYU’s captain set a physical tone early and was very influential in the home team’s Wasatch Cup victory.
“There’s nothing like playing with the boys here at South Field,” Sumsion said. “Traveling with the National Team was a really great experience but there’s no greater feeling than playing with the guys that you practice with day in and day out.”
With BYU’s regular season home finale complete, the Cougars finish the 2014 regular on the road when they travel to Phoenix to play Arizona State in the inaugural Rugby Bowl 2014.
Following the game at Arizona State, BYU will travel to Annapolis and the Naval Academy to play the winner of Dartmouth and Clemson in the quarterfinals of the 2014 Varsity Cup National Championship.
Should the Cougars win their quarterfinal matchup on the East Coast, BYU will host one of the Varsity Cup semifinals on South Field on April 26.
The Cougars are looking to reach their third straight national championship game and second straight Varsity Cup final, which will be held May 3 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, and will be televised live on NBC Sports Network.
Kelby Jones is a student at BYU studying public relations and currently writes for BYU Rugby.
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company