STANFORD, Calif. On the face of it, BYU's 37-14 win over San Diego State in the USA Rugby Division I quarterfinals looked like a cakewalk.
With 15 minutes to go with BYU up 25-14, the Aztecs had the momentum going in their direction by scoring a try and getting within a few meters of a second that would have cut BYU's lead to four points. The Cougars held firm in their lines and San Diego State tuckered itself out.
Just as in Friday's win against Dartmouth in the opening round, BYU started slowly. That didn't mean the Cougars had nothing going in their favor as they kept the ball in the Aztecs half of the field for a good portion of the first half.
"With any decent team, they are going to do anything in their power to stop the opposition," said BYU coach David Smyth of why the Cougars had problems scoring early.
The pressure eventually led to Steve St. Pierre getting into the in-goal area and not coming up with a try. He took the ball directly from a lineout five meters from the line and was held up by the Aztecs defense.
Eventually Tim Steflik dotted one down, culminating almost 20 minutes of sustained pressure from the Cougars. Jacob Sohn added another try and Steflik kicked two penalties as BYU took a 20-0 halftime lead.
Both teams were deadlocked for 20 minutes in the second half before the Aztecs scored their first try. BYU came right back in going up 25-7 as Apenisa Malani intercepted a pass and scored one under the posts from near midfield.
A blustery day, with the wind in BYU's face in the second half, forced it to change tactics a bit according to Smyth.
"We were trying to keep it tight to keep ball from getting knocked on or intercepted," Smyth said.
Duncan Kelm showed that San Diego State still had some gas left in the tank as he finished a great movement from left to right, starting at the 22-meter line. At first the Aztecs weren't able to recycle the ball from the tackle quickly. Kelm found a seam and had no trouble finishing.
BYU had the physical edge toward the end in scoring tries in the 70th and 75th minutes to close out the match.
"We kind of took the wind out of their sails," Smyth said.
In a consolation match, Utah closed out its worst playoff run in five years with a 31-18 loss to Minnesota.