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Cal vs. Texas | 2016 Opening Round Preview

Cal vs. Texas | 2016 Opening Round Preview

Cal will host the University of Texas at Strawberry Canyon in the first round of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup. For the second consecutive year, the Longhorns will battle the Golden Bears in the Varsity Cup.

Cal traveled to Austin last year and took care of business against Texas to the tune of a 100-7 victory. The Longhorns know it will not be any easier this year, and traveling to California will not make things any easier.

“We know it is going to be tough. Especially from last year. We have had a challenging year as a team but this is why you do it. You go up and test yourself….We are looking forward to the bay area and the challenge,” said Texas coach Chris Hopps.

Texas struggled in Red River play this year, going winless. The Longhorns have been playing better as of late, narrowly losing to Oklahoma last week. Led by fly half Carson Youmen, the Longhorns will try and slow down a potent Cal attack.

“He has got a ton of skill and he is probably one of the better defensive numbers 10’s regionally and I would guess nationally,” Hopps said of Youmen. “He has been a cornerstone on what we have been building off this year.”

One thing that Texas took away from last year’s drubbing was the level of physicality that Cal can bring. Since the schedule was announced, the Longhorns have been preparing for a big, physical opponent.

“Just getting ready physically. Ever since we found out we are going to be playing them…we have been trying to get the guys strong enough and fit enough and the mindset to really battle it out with them,” Hopps added “We knew they would be good, the tempo would be high, with the skills and the athleticism but I hadn’t really seen a Cal team that physical…..Going in we are a lot more aware of that this time and hopefully we are going to compete a little more in the physical side of the game.

Cal comes into the matchup with a 14-2 record, with the only two losses coming to the University of British Columbia. The Golden Bears captured their fourth straight PAC Rugby Conference and will looking to usurp the Varsity Cup crown from BYU.

Knowing the result from last season, and with an undercard match slated with Santa Clara scheduled on Saturday, the Golden Bears will play a mix of upper classmen and less experienced players.

“The lineup plan is to field an underclassmen team against Santa Clara and a mixed team versus the Longhorns,” said head coach Jack Clark. “This is going to be a challenging month of competition and we are going to need to manage the wear and tear on our players.”

Cal is the heavy favorite in this matchup, but with a year of experience and nothing to lose, Texas will come out gunning for the Bears.

Utah vs. Air Force | 2016 Opening Round Preview

Utah vs. Air Force | 2016 Opening Round Preview

Air Force will travel to Utah in the first round of the Varsity Cup. It will be the second time the Zoomies and the Utes meet this year, with the first matchup going the way of Utah in the fall.

Although Utah defeated Air Force 41-30 in the fall, a long time and many matches have passed. For the Zoomies, who underwent a coaching change this season, it has been ample time to get acclimated to a new system.

“The players have really come a long way. I think over the last six months as far as the style of play that we have been trying to get them introduced to,” said Air Force coach Denny Merideth. “Obviously, Utah has had some tough matches recently as well. So we know that they have improved across the board with their entire team… I think both teams are going to be a lot more prepared. Both of them will have worked on their structure a lot over the last several months. So I think the timing of this match with Utah is going to be perfect.

The Zoomies went 3-2 in DIA conference play in the fall and took on a tough non-conference schedule in the spring. The Academy got wake up calls against BYU, Cal, and Life, lost to Navy and beat Clemson. Along with a victory over Army in the fall, the Zoomies have tested themselves against five tough Varsity Cup opponents.

Leading the way for the Air Force Academy is inside center Ben Burmester and second row player Grigor Kerdikoshvili.

“Ben is just a very intense player and an extremely good leader as far as the captain is concerned working with the team. He is an extremely solid tackler and hard runner. It is going to be interesting to see how he does in this match. He has led the guys both physically and mentally,” added Meredith.

Air Force is looking to even the score with Utah, and after a tough schedule, Merideth believes it is possible if his team meets certain conditions.

“We have got to maintain our defensive structure on the outside and be able to hold them, number one. Number two, we have got to be able to retain possession of the ball. That has been a challenge for us at different stages of the season. Those will be our two biggest emphasis points as we go through this week of preparation,” Merideth concluded.

While Air Force played a tough schedule, Utah may have played arguably a tougher schedule. Utah went 5-0 in the DIA West play during the fall campaign, but a tough spring schedule yielded a 4-7 record. The Utes played St. Mary’s and UCLA in a three-day span after winning the Las Vegas 7s and followed that up with a battle with West Point and the PAC finale against Cal. A week later the Utes took on BYU in the Wasatch Cup. Playing such a tough, condensed schedule has had both its pros and cons.

“We feel like our season has been a little more successful than our record would indicate. There were a few teams on our schedule that we know would be challenges for us. Those teams being BYU St. Mary’s and Cal. Frankly, we expect to compete and win in the others,” said Utah assistant coach Jon Law. “After the Las Vegas stretch where were absolutely fatigued and broken down, we didn’t really get back on top of things. We have had to play some first year players, some freshman, some guys who haven’t had a lot of rugby under their belt. From that standpoint, the schedule has been really good.”

Hooker Chad Gough and flanker Gabe Ruflin lead a very talented forward pack. Gough has a real nose for the try zone, and Ruflin’s work rate is extremely strong. Diminutive winger Casey Raymond is a nifty runner and sure tackler and outside center Taylor Thomas returns from injury for the game.

“Gabe does so many little things on the pitch well. His work rate is high. He is an acrobat in the air. He is one of the emotional leaders of the team,” Law said of his flanker. “Casey Raymond, that guy has got a heart of a lion. He is about four foot eight and about 111 pounds but he punches above his weight every game.”

It should be a good one between the Zoomies and the Utes. With both teams playing tough schedules this year, and both having strong pedigrees, either team could walk away victorious.

Arkansas State vs. Clemson | 2016 Opening Round Preview

Arkansas State vs. Clemson | 2016 Opening Round Preview

Arkansas State will host Clemson University in the first round of the Varsity Cup on April 9th. It is the second consecutive year that the schools have met in the first round, with Clemson coming from behind to win 26-22 at home last spring.

For this go around, both teams have a bit of a new look. Both Arkansas State and Clemson have undergone coaching changes. Former ASU All-American Shaun Potgeiter has taken over the helm at his Alma Mater, while Steve Lynch has succeeded last year’s Varsity Cup coach of the year Justin Hickey at Clemson.

Clemson come into the match with a combined fall and spring record of 9-5. The Tigers swept through ACRL play in the fall but fell to a tough AIC team in the ACRC Bowl Series. Lynch’s side played a tough spring schedule, including matches against Life, South Carolina, Wheeling Jesuit and fellow Varsity Cup competitors, Navy, Air Force and Penn State.

Playing at home, the Red Wolves will definitely be seeking revenge this year. Although Lynch is new to Clemson, he is anticipating a hungry opponent. The Tigers are well tested coming into the match with ASU, but Lynch admitted it is going to take a full team effort to come away with a victory.

“In order for us to beat Arkansas State, as good as they are playing right now, all 15 guys have to be involved. My first 15 have to play at their absolute best,” Lynch said. “I don’t think they brought their full complement of athletes against us last year. I think they are gunning for us, so we need to bring our very best on both sides of the ball and every single guy needs to play the best that can possibly play in order for us to compete with Arkansas State.”

While Clemson has played a packed schedule all year, ASU matches have been much more scattered. Unfortunately, the Red Wolves had a number of games cancelled, but early contests against tough opponents like Davenport and Life, the Red Wolves were able to gauge the progress of the program.

“That definitely helped us to see where we are in the season,” Potgeiter said of the matches against Davenport and Life. “It was pretty early in the season so it allowed us to fix some things and strengthen our positives. We did have some cancellations after that, which kind of brought us on the back seat with game time. We have had quite a long break at the moment. We are kind of unsure how that will benefit or not be good for us.”

The time off, however, has put ASU in much better place physically this year. Eight man Kirk Pretorius returns after missing most of last year with an ACL injury and captain Robert Elan-Puttick comes in firing on all cylinders from is fly half position. Along with wing Preston Weigel, who missed some of the spring with concussion issues, the Red Wolves come into the game completely healthy.

ASU is excited to host the Varsity Cup this year and are looking to right the wrongs of last year.

“We went down disappointingly as the heavy favorites last year….They played one heck of a game on their home turf and they really brought it to us. It is up to us this time around to bring it to them on our home turf,” Potgeiter iterated.

CWU vs. UCLA | 2016 Opening Round Preview

CWU vs. UCLA | 2016 Opening Round Preview

Central Washington will host the UCLA Bruins for a quarterfinals matchup in Ellensburg, Wash. on April 9th. The Wildcats have reached the semifinals in each of the last three years, but a very strong UCLA side will be looking to upend the northwestern school.

The Wildcats come in to the game having played a unique schedule this season. After plowing through the NCRC for the last several years, Central Washington elected to play an independent schedule this season. The Wildcats racked up convincing wins over several northwestern colleges and local club teams in an on and off schedule this spring.

The home side comes in with a 10-3 record overall, however, falling to Olympic Club 19-15, BYU 58-27, and the University of Victoria out of Canada 27-22. The Wildcats come into this match having lost their last two games and with a match against Air Force on April 2nd being cancelled, will have not played a match since March 23rd.

“I think that game being cancelled was really unfortunate. We could have really used it, just to make sure we are not under fit for the Varsity Cup,” said CWU coach Tony Pacheco. “One good thing from that is though we will be going in pretty healthy and at full strength.”

When healthy, CWU is a potent team. The Wildcats have a big and athletic forward pack that is spearheaded by captain Vili Toluta’u and Aladdin Schirmer. The former has a tremendous work rate as an openside flanker and the latter leads from his number 8 position. Schirmer, who has had a stint on the HSBC World Series and is a part of the 50 player squad at the upcoming Eagles Elite Training Squad, is deadly off the back of the scrum and active all over the field.

“He leads from the front and by example. He has just been an inspirational type player,” Pacheco said of his captain.

In the back line, CWU gets back the explosive Tanner Barnes, who missed most of last year due to injury. Complementing the center is the recent USA 7s debutant Seth Halliman.

“He is shaped up into form and has been a pretty good player for us. Having his ability and leadership in the back line has really helped,” Pacheco said of Barnes. “(Halliman) adds a piece we were missing in our back line in terms of a guy who can really shift the ball out and find the ball in phase play.”

For UCLA, it will be a tough challenge but one that the Bruins believe they are prepared to handle. With a tough PAC schedule that included a tough loss to Cal and a strong victory over Utah, the Bruins feel their schedule has set them up nicely for a tough CWU side.

“We are looking forward to it. We have been fortunate to have played really good teams all season in the PAC Conference and expect nothing less than to run into an excellent team in the first round,” UCLA coach Scott Stewart told United World sports.

The Bruins finished 9-2 this season and 4-1 in PAC play. However, the last game UCLA played was on March 3rd, the win over Utah. After giving the guys a break to focus on their studies, UCLA held a training camp to prepare for the match.

“We had our exam period and we brought the guys back and had a camp, a private camp for our training squad. This week we are back to school and we are having a normal week. We have been pretty active in trying to maintain our focus on this game,” Stewart added.

UCLA features a balanced attack. Zach Bonte ,Pierre Courpron and Andrew Alex have been mainstays in the UCLA pack the last several years while Seb Sharpe and captain Niall Barry in the back line.

Although UCLA has an experience and well-tested team, it will be a tough ask to win on the road. For Stewart, it will require a complete effort.

“The key is to play for 80 minutes. Central Washington is not afraid to play. They will run and take the game to you anywhere on the field and you have to be ready for that,” Stewart concluded.

2016 Varsity Cup Schedule Announcement

2016 Varsity Cup Schedule Announcement

For Immediate Release: February 26, 2016

NEW YORK – The Varsity Cup Universities and United World Sports are pleased to announce the schedule for the fourth installment of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup National Championship. With the addition of collegiate rugby programs, many of which are perennial conference championships and post-season stalwarts, the field now consists of 16 schools. Unlike prior years, no teams will receive a first round bye, with the schedule featuring eight matches on the weekend of April 9th.

Defending National Champions BYU is paired with last season’s semifinalist Navy on one side of the bracket along with ASU, Penn State, Dartmouth, Clemson, Arkansas State, and Notre Dame. Finalist Cal and last season’s semifinalist Central Washington pair with Texas, Oklahoma, Army, UCLA, Air Force, and Utah on the other side of the bracket.

The round of eight will take place on April 16th and the semi-finals a week later on April 23rd. In the final four, the higher seed will host the match.

The Penn Mutual Varsity final will be aired live on the NBC Sports Network on May 7th.

About The Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Rugby National Championship

The Varsity Cup is America’s top collegiate rugby postseason national championship. The mission of the Varsity Cup is to grow American rugby by harnessing the collective strength of collegiate rugby and collegiate sport in general. The Varsity Cup features the most recognized and accomplished university rugby programs in the country vying for the right to be named the “Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Collegiate 15s Champions.”

For more information, please contact:
Name: Mark Johnson
Phone: (914) 831-6242
E-Mail: mjohnson@unitedworldsports.com
Website: http://varsitycup.us/

Army, Penn State Join Penn Mutual Varsity Cup

Army, Penn State Join Penn Mutual Varsity Cup

NEW YORK – United World Sports and the Varsity Cup universities announced Monday that the United States Military Academy at West Point and Penn State University have committed to the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Rugby Championship as the final 15th and 16th teams in the competition.

Army and Penn State bring their considerable rugby histories and success to the Varsity Cup, which is widely recognized as the most prestigious postseason championship tournament in the history of U.S. collegiate rugby. The Black Knights and Nittany Lions add their 21 final four national championship appearances to the Varsity Cup’s 76 for an updated total of 97 final four places and 34 national collegiate championships among the participating teams.

“Historically and on an annual basis, these two iconic institutions are among the very best rugby teams in the nation,” said Jack Clark, the head coach at California and member of the U.S. Rugby Hall of Fame. “They have outstanding coaching and significant institutional support.”

The additions of Army and Penn State add significantly to the Varsity Cup’s eastern representation, which already boasts perennial Ivy League champions Dartmouth and powerhouse Navy, along with Atlantic Coast stalwart Clemson.

David Smyth, head coach for three-time Varsity Cup national champion BYU, said, “The Black Knights and Nittany Lions are the perfect teams and universities to round out our 16-team postseason.”

Dan Lyle, Executive Vice President for United World Sports, added, “From a standard-of-play perspective and, moreover, from a commercial viewpoint, these two teams add considerably to the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup’s national prominence.”

Both teams voiced excitement over their entry into the championship tournament as its newest members.

“We are delighted to be joining the Varsity Cup Championship,” said Black Knights head coach Matt Sherman, a former international player for the United States and former head coach of the Collegiate All-Americans. “We look forward to the opportunity to compete against these great institutions and rugby programs this upcoming spring, in particular our fellow service academies.”

“We are grateful for the opportunity to participate in this year’s Varsity Cup,” added Army West Point Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Boo Corrigan. “This will be a new and exciting challenge for our cadets and coach Matt Sherman as we compete on this national stage.”

Penn State head coach Blake Burdette, also a former U.S. international player, echoed the enthusiasm to compete for the 2016 Varsity Cup crown.

“We are excited to be a part of the Varsity Cup and raise the profile of Penn State rugby,” Burdette said, “This move will help with recruiting and branding, and continue the strong tradition of our program. We have had tremendous support from the University, athletic department and alumni.”

“Penn State is honored to accept an invitation to join the Varsity Cup,” added PSU Assistant Athletic Director Michael Cross. “The opportunity to align with the best rugby programs in the country is a testament to Penn State’s strength as a program and its historical excellence. The Varsity Cup provides an excellent way to increase awareness of rugby nationally through significant TV exposure and we look forward to a long partnership.”

The 2016 Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Rugby Championship will commence with four rounds of single-elimination tournament play on April 9, with the quarterfinals contested April 16 and semifinals on April 23. The Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Rugby Championship final will take place on May 7. Tournament seedings and venues are expected to be announced shortly.

The additions of Army and Penn State bring to 16 the number of teams in the Varsity Cup, which began in 2013 with eight programs. Four more joined to create a 12‐team field in the 2014 edition, and the decision by the Black Knights and Nittany Lions follows the same move by Arizona State and Arkansas State in 2015 to join BYU, Cal, Utah, UCLA, Navy, Dartmouth, Notre Dame, Texas, Air Force, Central Washington, Clemson and Oklahoma in next spring’s premier postseason for collegiate 15s. The Penn Mutual Varsity Cup final was televised nationally by NBC Sports Network in 2014 and ‘15, and will return to the network for another live national broadcast in 2016.

ABOUT UNITED WORLD SPORTS

United World Sports (UWS) LLC hosts a dynamic line up of emerging sports properties and has quickly become the leader at delivering premier international sports properties to U.S. audiences. UWS’ flagship property is the USA Sevens Rugby Tournament held annually in Las Vegas. This exciting 16‐nation, three‐day tournament has become the largest attended rugby event in North America with more than 70,000 fans coming to Sam Boyd Stadium. Broadcast live on NBC Sports the tournament serves as the only U.S. stop on a nine‐city world tour and reaches more than 350 million television households worldwide. Additional UWS properties include the Las Vegas Invitational, America’s Rugby Seven’s Cup, the College Rugby Championship (CRC), the Varsity Cup and the Pro Soccer Challenge.

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Final Recap: BYU Reclaim Varsity Cup Crown!

Final Recap: BYU Reclaim Varsity Cup Crown!

In the third installment of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup, BYU bested Cal 30-27 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. The Cougars jumped out to an early lead, and despite a couple of surges from the Golden Bears, held on to win their third consecutive Varsity Cup championship.

The teams traded field possession early in the game but it was ultimately a handling error that paved the way for the first score of the game. Cal botched a crash ball in its own territory and Seki Kofe pounced on the loose ball and punished the mistake with a try untouched under the posts.

The boys in black extended the advantage after a well-earned turnover. The man whose mother traveled all the way from New Zealand to see the match, Ara Elkington, stripped the ball and sent BYU counterattacking down the field. BYU earned a penalty at the breakdown and Johnny Linehan slotted it in to increase the lead to 10-0.

Cal earned its first points of the day after BYU was pinged for not rolling away at the breakdown. That would be a repeating theme as BYU would eventually lose prop Zane Menhendall to a yellow card from a similar infraction. In the 15th minute, Jake Anderson nailed the kick to cut the BYU lead to 10-3.

The Golden Bears began to earn some momentum, spending a majority of the remainder of the first half in BYU territory. However, several knock ons and slow ball stymied the Cal attack.

One of Cal’s handling errors resulted in a scrum inside the BYU half. The Cougars won the scrum and swung it wide to Josh Whippy, who split two defenders and found a streaking Josh Anderson for a try down the sideline. Linehan slotted the conversion to extend the lead to 17-3.

Cal responded with a bit of resurgence but still struggled to find points. Russell Webb broke the line and got the Bears within the 5-meter line. Solid defense from BYU, however, kept Cal at bay.

Minutes later, Cal earned another 5-meter penalty and instead of opting for points, decided to run the ball. Despite repelling the Cal attack, referee Kurt Weaver awarded Cal another penalty and sent Mendehall to the sin bin. Despite being at 14 players, and needing a front row sub, BYU kept Cal off the scoreboard and took a 17-3 going into the break.

The second half started with Cal still retaining a man advantage, and the Golden Bears were finally able to break down the BYU defense. Weaver awarded a penalty to Cal for offsides at a maul. Paul Bosco, took a quick tap from 5-meters out, stepped a defender, and dove in for the try. With the conversion, BYU led 17-10.

Cal took over the early stages of the second half, putting BYU on its heels. Like BYU in the first half, Cal scored an impressive try off a scrum. Jake Anderson darted down the sideline, fended off two defenders and powered through a tackle to touch down in the corner. Anderson missed the conversion, however, leaving Cal two points behind.

Near the 60th minute, BYU stemmed the tide, getting a penalty from Johnny Linehan. The New Zealander was perfect with the boot all day, nailing several tough kicks and setting up a try with cross field kick. Linehan found Jared Whippy with a perfectly placed cross-field kick to extend the lead to 27-15.

The Golden Bears refused to quit, however, scoring almost immediately after conceding a try. Cal recovered the ensuing kickoff and Anderson chipped a kick behind the BYU defense. The ball bounced off of BYU player and Cal recovered the ball. Michael Bush found an open gap around the fringe of the ruck to cut the lead to 27-20.

Linehan once again made it a two score game, but Cal kept its foot on the gas. Despite a number of knock-ons in BYU territory, Cal desperately tried to break down the BYU defense. Rather than try to run out the clock, BYU elected to kick for field position. The Bears swung the rock wide, and Harry Adolphus beat a man to the outside and found an oncoming Anthony Salabar back in field. The center slipped a defender and with the conversion, Cal trailed 30-27.

With five minutes to play, Cal tried desperately to tie up the game. Cal earned a penalty for a double move and Adolphus sent the Bears into BYU territory with a lineout. Up until this point the Bears were a perfect 11 for 11 on lineouts. However, Cal was unable to corral its 12th lineout and a scrum was awarded to BYU.

BYU worked the fringes for the remaining minutes and when the clock hit 80 minutes the Cougars kicked for touch. However, BYU did not heed the referees warning in the prior scrum that additional time would be added for time wasted.

Thus, Cal had one last opportunity at a lineout in BYU territory. The Golden Bears tried to attack wide but in all to similar fashion the ball was knocked on.

The final whistle blew with BYU earning a 30-27 victory and its third straight Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Title.

Photo Credit: Kristin Murphy/Deseret News

Clemson Head Coach Named 2015 Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Coach of the Year

Clemson Head Coach Named 2015 Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Coach of the Year

Salt Lake City, UT—In lead up to today’s Penn Mutual Varsity Cup National Rugby Championship, the coaches and administrators of the participant schools met for a series of coordination and development meetings to review the 2015 competition and set plans for the future.

Along with these coordination meetings, the coaches named Clemson University head coach, Justin Hickey, as the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup 2015 Coach of the Year.

Hickey, who was named to the USA Rugby Collegiate All American coaching staff along with Varsity Cup fellow head coach Gavin Hickie from Dartmouth, has quickly taken Clemson from a mid-tier collegiate rugby program in the Atlantic Coast Rugby League (ACRL) to the 2013 and 2014 champions. hickey

Hickey was also named the ACRL Coach of the Year in both of those championship seasons.

Overall, Hickey has led the Tigers to a strong 28-4 conference record over five seasons at the helm.

In the 2015 Penn Mutual Varsity Cup, Hickey led his Tigers to a 26-22 upset victory over Arkansas State University, but were up-ended narrowly at the United States Naval Academy the following week by the score of 23-24.

After their team’s loss to the Midshipmen, Hickey and the Tigers finished as Runners-Up at the ACRL 7’s Championship the following week, and therefore , qualify to the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship in Philadelphia May 30-31.

Hickey was also a member of the 2012 USA Rugby Under-20 Junior World Rugby Trophy Champion coaching staff.

“Justin is one of the Varsity Cup’s rising coaches,” said Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Director Dan Lyle, “And is proof that consistent effort and a solid vision can lead to the development of a winning program. Justin is another example of what makes the Varsity Cup a great avenue for the development of collegiate game and student-athletes.”

After being named the 2015 Coach of the Year, Hickey was obviously flattered.

“To be selected as the Coach of the Year is humbling,” Hickey said, “The room was packed with men that I look up and have interacted with over my coaching career, and this is just as much an award for our players, alumni and support staff. I look forward to continuing our efforts at Clemson and am grateful for the opportunities that the Varsity Cup offers our program to grow and develop.”

Hickey and the rest of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Head Coaches will be on hand at today’s championship match between the California Berkeley Bears and the Brigham Young University Cougars.

Kick-off is slated for 4pm EST and will be broadcast live on national television on NBCSN. Check your local listing for channels.

For ticket and event information visit www.VarsityCup.us.

Final Preview: The Rivalry Continues (BYU vs. Cal)

Final Preview: The Rivalry Continues (BYU vs. Cal)

For the third consecutive year, BYU will take on Cal in the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Championship. The Cougars won the first two Cups by three and 10 points respectively, and the teams will meet for the third time at Rio Tinto Stadium, in Sandy, Utah on Saturday.

California and BYU have a storied rivalry with the Golden Bears holding a 9-3 all time edge.  The Cougars have had more success of recent however, defeating Cal in their last several meetings.

Cal coach Jack Clark knows it will be a tough challenge to dethrone BYU, but relishes any opportunity to play the talented program.

“They’re the defending national champions and they’re undefeated. Say no more,” head coach Jack Clark said. “As daunting a task as it is, we love playing BYU. They bring out the best in us, I assume because anything other than our best would result in a hiding.”

The Golden Bears have cruised through Varsity Cup play so far, putting up a century mark against Texas, and using a strong second half to dispatch Navy 57-15.

“I’ve been very pleased with our team. It has been a rewarding season,” coach Clark said. “They boys are a pleasure to work with and they’ve played hard for their University. Further, I think we have a pretty well put together team, competent in most of the areas of the game.”

The two time runners up will look to get over the hump this year with a wealth of experience.  The Golden Bears will lean heavily on the tireless work rate of three-time All-American Alec Gletzer at flanker. The halfback combination of Paul Bosco and Russell Webb as well as the experienced Jake Anderson at fullback should play a vital role in Cal winning its 26th national title 15 aside competition.

Andrew Battaglia and Miles Honens, who both scored tries in last years Varsity Cup, flank Anderson on the wings. Sione Sina, who joined the rugby program after the culmination of his football career, has been a major presence in the pack.

BYU too enters the 2015 Penn Mutual Varsity Cup with a lot of experienced players and some welcome additions. The side only lost two starters from last year’s final and welcomed the addition of Alex Vorster at hooker. The freshman has jumped right into BYU’s squad and made impact in his first season.

Vorster is flanked by a couple of experienced props, Zane Mendenhall and Kody Thompson. Bolstering the pack, however, is four-time All-American and capped Eagle Kyle Sumsion.

The Cougar back line enters the final led by South African scrumhalf Luke Mocke and New Zealand flyhalf Johnny Linehan. The Whippy brothers, Jared and Josh, are a potent pair in the midfield, and Jordan Lowry has been a try-scoring machine on the wing.

BYU’s program has enjoyed great success as of recent, having won all four of its national titles in the last six years. BYU has yet to lose to a game this season and is  looking to cap off the 50th anniversary of the program with its fourth consecutive national championship.

“This has been one of the most exciting seasons we’ve had,” said David Smyth, BYU rugby head coach. “It’s fitting that this year is the 50th anniversary. Everyone involved this semester has given a performance worthy of the team’s great legacy.”

In the first two rounds, BYU powered by a determined UCLA squad and outmuscled a stingy Central Washington. Sumsion knows that it will be a tough task for BYU to complete the hat trick over Cal in the Varsity Cup final but is confident in his team’s ability to get the job done.

“We respect California enough to be sure to put it all on the field on Saturday,” said BYU captain and All-American Kyle Sumsion. “I’m confident in our scoring ability as a team and also our ability to make stops and create opportunities defensively.”

Over the last 12 years BYU and Cal have appeared in a combined twenty-two final fours. During that span Cal and BYU have won seven and four national titles, respectively. Cal versus BYU is the gold standard of rugby and if the last two years are any indication, this match should prove to be quite the thriller.

The game will kick off at 4PM EST and will be aired live on the NBC Sport Network.

Semi-Final Recap: BYU Prevails Over Scrappy CWU

Semi-Final Recap: BYU Prevails Over Scrappy CWU

In Provo, Utah, BYU defeated a scrappy Central Washington side, 35-8 to advance to the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup championship. The Cougars used a strong second half performance to outlast a tough Wildcat team.

Central Washington hung tough in the early stages of the game, controlling a decent amount of ball possession. The Wildcats earned a penalty inside the BYU 22 but the kick went wide right.  BYU got on the board first after a kick from inside the CWU 22 failed to reach touch and BYU broke through the CWU line on the counterattack. After several offloads, Johnny Linenhan dotted down untouched in the corner for a 5-0 lead. The conversion sailed wide.

The Wildcats responded nicely, however, swinging the ball down the right sideline. The visitors gained chunks of territory and after exhausting the right sideline swung the ball left and outflanked the BYU defense to tie the game at five.

BYU retook the lead in the 20th minute after the Whippy brothers, Joshua and Jared Whippy teamed up to break through the line and dot down next to the post. Jared scored the try and was a force all afternoon. The big center made a number of line breaks on the afternoon. Fortunate for Central Washington, however, his twin Joshua left the game in the 32nd minute.

After the conversion, the Cougars led 12-5 and with another Linehan penalty increased the lead to 15-5 going into the break. CWU struck first in the second half, adding a penalty to make it a one try game. BYU put on the clamps, however, shutting out CWU the rest of the way. BYU coach David Smyth was very proud of his team’s defensive performance.

Both teams had great defense, but BYU played really well and kept CWU at bay most of the time,” said David Smyth, BYU rugby head coach. “Even when our players were hurt they turned in a winning performance. Nothing stands between us now and the final championship game.”

Number 8 Joe Pikula scored off a five-meter penalty, barely squeezing over the line. Linehan added another penalty to increase the lead to 25-8. Ara Elikington sealed the game with an intercepted pass he took to the house and Ryan Blaser added the final score of the match in the 65th minute to win 35-8.

Central Washington’s front line was strong,” Linehan said. “Our forwards and backs communicated really well throughout the match allowing several us Cougars to score.”

Celebrating the program’s 50th anniversary, in their final home game of the season, the Cougars played in front of a number of alumnae and fans. Both Linehan and Smyth appreciated the support of playing in front of large crowd of supporters.

Being able to play at South Field with our loyal crowd helped us big time,” said Linehan.  Smyth added, “We want to thank everyone who has contributed to this team’s legacy and made BYU rugby what it is today. Whether current team members, past players or fans, we couldn’t do it without you.”

BYU will take on Cal at Rio Tinto Stadium for the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup championship on May 2nd. The game will be aired live on the NBC Sports Network.