The BYU Cougars traveled to the East Coast and the campus of the Naval Academy to begin their 2014 Varsity Cup National Championship postseason campaign and came away with a 70-15 victory over the Big Green of Dartmouth in the opening game of the Varsity Cup Eastern Super Regional.
After a slow first half start that saw BYU leading 15-3, the Cougars ran away in the second half scoring 55 points to 14 for the Big Green.
“We didn’t get off on the right foot,” BYU captain Kyle Sumsion said. “I don’t know if it was the travel or what but we just were making too many mistakes in the first half. Dartmouth was defending well, but we just kept stepping on our own toes.”
In the opening half of the game, BYU, on more than one occasion, found itself deep in the Dartmouth territory only to commit a penalty or turn the ball over.
It wasn’t until a well constructed backline move saw fullback Josh Whippey find some space in the Dartmouth defense out wide and run 20 meters for the opening try of the game in the 13th minute.
More back and forth play saw BYU eventually muster a 30th minute penalty by flyhalf Jonny Linehan to edge the Cougars to an 8-0 lead.
But a BYU penalty off the ensuing restart gave Dartmouth the chance to answer with a penalty of its own converted by Dartmouth fullback and USA 7’s team member Madison Hughes to keep the scoring gap to just 8-3.
A late crossing kick from Linehan to wing Jordan Lowry saw BYU score just before the halftime whistle. A successful conversion gave BYU a 15-3 lead going into the break.
“We weren’t playing the polished rugby I’d expected at this time of the season,” BYU head coach David Smyth said of his team’s first half performance. “A lot of silly mistakes that will cause us some pause with our personnel selections moving forward. We cannot afford to have similar slow starts as we move on in the Varsity Cup.”
With eight second half tries, Smyth went on, however, to commend how his team responded to their slow first half start.
“When we play good solid fundamental rugby, we’re a tough team to beat,” Smyth said. “Take no credit from Dartmouth at all, but when we get outside of ourselves we keep teams in the game and that’s been a weakness of ours all year. It was nice to see a more consistent effort in the second half from the team.”
The second half standard of play was set up front with BYU’s forwards commanding in the scrum and in open play with captain Kyle Sumsion, prop David Collins and No. 8 Joe Pikula all barging for a series of runs to set up the BYU scoring attack.
In total, BYU was led in tries by fullback Josh Whippey and Jordan Lowry who each dotted down for a brace of tries each. Flyhalf and vice captain Jonny Linehan led all BYU scorers with 25 points.
BYU now moves on to the Varsity Cup National Championships semifinal, which will be held Saturday, April 26, on South Field. Kickoff is tentatively set for 1 p.m. MT.
The Cougars will host the Naval Academy which beat the University of Texas in the other Varsity Cup Eastern Super Regional match by the score of 64-10.
BYU and Navy met in Provo before in the 2011 postseason quarterfinals with the Cougars winning a hard fought game, 64-12.
Should BYU tally a victory over the Midshipmen in the semifinals, the Cougars will have the chance to play in their ninth straight title game and the opportunity to win their third straight National Championship.
The Varsity Cup National Championship is slated for May 3 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, and will be broadcast live on NBC Sports at 2 p.m. MT. For event information including ticket information visit VarsityCup's website.
Justin Green is the SID over men's track and cross country for BYU Athletic Communications as well as BYU Rugby. He is a BYU student majoring in public relations and minoring in business and will graduate in April 2014. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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