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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.

Semi-Final Recap: Cal Trumps Navy

Semi-Final Recap: Cal Trumps Navy

Cal defeated Navy 57-15 at Witter Field to advance to the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup championship. For the 3rd consecutive year, Cal will take on BYU in the final.

The Golden Bears opened the scoring in the 6th minute with a try from Harry Adolphus. Navy added a penalty but Cal outflanked the Navy defense and with a great individual effort from Miles Honens, scored a try in the corner. Honens stepped several Navy defenders in route to a 50-meter try down the left sideline.

 Navy battled its way back into the game but was unable to put up any more points in the first half.  Around the 25th minute, Cade Pope broke through the Cal line and if not for a try saving tackle from Jake Anderson would have scored. Anderson, however, was called for a high tackle and sent to the sin bin for 10 minutes.

The visitors probed the Cal line, but staunch defense kept them out. Cal was able to clear the line and prevent Navy from scoring during the man advantage. The Golden Bears moved down the field, and despite being down a man, were able to add three points with a Russell Webb drop goal. Cal added three more with a penalty from Anderson right before halftime to take a 16-3 lead going into the break.

Navy charged back with a try immediately following halftime. Justin Manke zipped down the left sideline to cut the Cal lead to one score. Cal immediately applied pressure, however, forcing a poor kick from the Navy 22. Webb fielded the kick, broke through the Navy line, and found Alec Gletzer to give Cal a 21-10 lead.

Gletzer was phenomenal all afternoon, and particularly disruptive at the breakdown. The senior forced a number of turnovers in critical moments. Gletzer, nonetheless, was a bit modest about his performance and gave credit to Navy for forcing his team to work incredibly hard.

“We got the job done to earn another shot at the final,” said co-captain Alec Gletzer. “It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t perfect, but Navy deserves credit for that.”

After the Gletzer try Navy began to falter and Cal punished the Midshipmen. Anthony Salabar dotted down twice in five minutes to extend the lead to 33-10. Navy Coach Mike Flanagan praised Cal’s execution.

“Fundamentally sound all the time,” said Navy head coach Mike Flanagan of the Bears. “You’d better not make mistakes, because they will capitalize.”

Dakota Raymond answered back with another try for Navy, but it was all cal after that point. In the final twenty minutes, Cal added four more tries, with two coming from Nicholas Boyer. The Golden Bears earned the victory by the final score of 57-15.

Cal coach Jack Clark indicated that the large score was a little misleading of the Navy performance. “Nothing but respect for Navy, they were very difficult,” said Cal head coach Jack Clark. “It was a good match. They’re a bunch of stud guys.”

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

Semi-Final Preview: BYU vs. CWU

Semi-Final Preview: BYU vs. CWU

The BYU Cougars host the Central Washington Wildcats in the second semifinal of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup. BYU is looking for their third consecutive Varsity Cup title while CWU hopes to end BYU’s monopoly on tournament championships and enter its first tournament final.

Coming off a 45-16 victory over UCLA, the Cougars will return home to face a tough Central Washington side. The BYU coaching staff is prepared for a dogfight with a berth in the final at stake.

“We have worked hard to have a successful semester,” said assistant coach Wayne Tarawhiti. “We have played against tough competition but managed to come out on top. The Varsity Cup games are always more intense because you get the best of the best playing against each other. There is more pressure and more at stake. This will be a good opportunity for BYU to prove itself.”

BYU will rely heavily on their front row to establish the physicality and provide a platform for an extremely dynamic offense. Coach Smyth indicated Zane Mendenhall, Alex Vorster and Kody Thompson, will have to make their presence felt early for BYU to get out on the front foot.

Defensively, the Cougars hope to slow down a potent CWU attack by maintaining shape and discipline. “We just have to keep our defensive structure intact, be physical and make our tackles,” said BYU head coach David Smyth.

Central Washington has continued to improve over the last several seasons and Smyth thinks it will be a tough task at hand for the Cougars this weekend.

“It is going to be a huge challenge, they improve every year,” Smyth said of playing CWU. “We are going to expect a very good team to show up in Prove this Saturday.”

The wildcats come into the semifinals with two tournament victories at home. After dominating Arizona State and narrowly defeating Utah in Washington, CWU will travel to play an undefeated BYU side in enemy territory.

“We are excited for the opportunity,” said CWU coach Tony Pacheco. “They are really good. They have size and class at every position. We have incredible respect for BYU and the way they play. They are so dangerous but we are confident and want to go and throw the ball around a bit.”

Despite playing an extremely tough opponent on its home turf, Pacheco indicated that if his team plays well, it can come away with a victory. “We will have to play well to get out of their with a win. We like our chances and we are a confident side and are going there to win a game.”

The game against BYU, however, will have to be nearly mistake free for the Wildcats. Pacheco stressed that CWU must finish all of their opportunities inside Cougar territory in order to have its best chance of winning the contest.

“The margin for error is really small,” Pacheco added. “We have got to make sure when we have an opportunity to get points in the opposition end. We have to come away with points whether it’s three, five or seven.”

CWU is hoping to earn its first berth in the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup final, something it was unable to do in last year’s competition. The Wildcats started slowly last year against Cal, fell down 28-0 in the first half and were never able to recover. The loss, however, taught Central some valuable lessons coming into this year’s game.

“That game was an eye opener for us,” Pacheco told United World Sports. “I think we are different team than last year… Hopefully we see a different Central side than played in last year’s semifinal.”

The game will kick off at 3PM ET.

Semi-Final Preview: Cal vs. Navy

Semi-Final Preview: Cal vs. Navy

The University of California will welcome Navy to Witter Rugby Field, Saturday, for the semifinals of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup. A storied rivalry, the Golden Bears and Midshipmen have faced off in a number of postseason matches over the years.

Cal and Navy played in the 1980, 1983 and 1994 national playoffs and most recently in the 2013 Varsity Cup Semifinals. The Bears have come away victorious in each of these prior meetings but Cal respects the traditionally historic Navy program.

“Over the last 35 years we’ve played Navy in the National Championships more than any other team. They are bit like the old foe,” said head coach Jack Clark. “We know them well and we respect them as athletes and men. For sure, you always wake up in the morning with your body reminding you of the hard-fought contest.”

The game will take place on Cal Day and kickoff will follow the spring football game. For a number of seniors, it will be the last time that they take the field in Strawberry Canyon for the Golden Bears. With weather conditions expected to be pristine and a strong crowd behind them, the Golden Bears are excited to host the semifinals.

“We know that we still have better play in us and we’ll look to reveal that at home next weekend said senior Jake Anderson. “It’s an honor to host the semifinal and have our fans out again on Witter.”

After defeating Texas handily last weekend, Cal will be looking to use the same formula in handling a tougher Navy squad.“Our victory conditions,” said coach Clark, “are to be accurate, stay in rhythm, use all the aspects of our attack, be varied in our options and, most importantly, play quick.”

For Navy, it has been a much more difficult road to the semifinals. The Midshipmen escaped with two one-point victories in as many weeks. Coach Mike Flanagan stressed that his side has been taking things one game at a time.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to play 80 more minutes. That has been our mantra through this whole Varsity Cup campaign,” said Flanagan. “We are not playing for a championship any given day, we are playing for 80 more minutes.”

The next 80 minutes will be extremely tough for Navy, however. Not only will they have to travel 3000 miles into a hostile environment, Navy is playing against one of the premier collegiate rugby programs in the country.

“Playing them anywhere is a hard game and they are particularly good at home,” said Navy coach Mike Flanagan. “Berkley does a phenomenal job of supporting that program They have lots of things happening for Collegiate Rugby on that campus and going into the Lion’s Den doesn’t make it any easier.”

Although Navy will face an uphill battle in the game, the experience of playing against a tough BYU squad in last year’s semifinals should bode well for the Midshipmen.

“We learned that if you are going to compete at that level, we are going to have to raise our level of physicality,” said Flanagan. “You are not going to be some smooth, free flowing team and beat someone like Cal or BYU. You have got to get physical up front and you have got to be able to have presence up front, hardcore for 80 minutes.”

The game will kickoff at 430 EST.

Quarterfinal Recap: BYU Advances Over Scrappy UCLA Team

Quarterfinal Recap: BYU Advances Over Scrappy UCLA Team

In its first match of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup, BYU edged a scrappy UCLA side 45-16 in Westwood, Calif. BYU jumped out to an early lead and with a tenacious, well conditioned side, UCLA was never able to recover.

Joseph Nicholls opened the scoring for the Cougars with a try in the 5th minute and six minutes later Jordan Lowry got his first of two tries on the afternoon. The winger has been a juggernaut out wide all year but he gave credit to his fellow cougars for creating opportunities for him to score.

“Thanks to my teammates, I was able to score at crucial times,” said Lowry of his two tries.

UCLA cut into the lead with a penalty but Kody Thompson extended the BYU advantage to 19-3 half way through the first half. Freshman Alex Vorster dotted down five minutes later but a try from UCLA made the game 26-8 in favor of the visitors. Head coach David Smyth was very pleased with the work of his big forwards.

“Led by our front row: Zane Mendenhall, Alex Vorster, and Kody Thompson, these boys built a good platform for us to work off, defensively we were able to get on our tackles early and as a result we created scoring opportunities,” said Smyth.

In the second half, UCLA struck first with a penalty but were unable to earn any more points until the final moments of the contest. Ara Elkington scored in the 53rd minute for BYU to push the lead to 33-11.

For the next twenty minutes UCLA stifled the BYU attack and Cougar coach David Smyth was impressed with the bruin effort. ““Fair play to UCLA, they were aggressive and did a good job at disrupting our momentum, our performance was uneven at times and we had to work hard for what we got.”

The dam finally broke in the 73rd minute, however, as Matt Jensen and Lowry’s second capped of the win for BYU. UCLA earned a consolation try in the 80th minute to finish the game at 45-16.

The Cougars move to 12-0 on the season and are in search of their 3rd consecutive Penn Mutual Varsity Cup championship. BYU will look to get a step closer when it hosts Central Washington in the semifinals next weekend.

Quarterfinal Recap: Cal Dismantles Texas 100-7

Quarterfinal Recap: Cal Dismantles Texas 100-7

In Austin Texas, Cal dismantled Texas to the tune of a 100-7 victory. The Golden Bears starved the Longhorns of possession and capitalized early and often to put this game out of reach in the early minutes.

By the 4th minute Cal had dotted down twice and took a 12-0 lead. At the 12 minute mark, Cal had extended its lead to 29-0 and already put in five tries. Jake Anderson had a first half hat trick and the Bears ultimately finished with 16 tries to reach the century mark on the afternoon.

Lucas Dunne added three more tries for the Bears. Dunne and Anderson indicated that this game was about maintaining focus and getting the job done in the postseason.

“That’s what this trip was all about, to come out and play with focus,” Dunne said. Anderson added that “as a team we discussed the significance of continuing to build momentum and we got that job done today.”

Texas salvaged a score in the 53rd minute when Taylor Hayes intercepted a pass and went the distance for a converted try. It was the bright spot in a day where Cal utterly dominated.

“I expected to have more possession but Cal was very clinical today,” said Longhorns head coach Chris Hopps. “You could see they took pride in the physical execution.”

Although some rain erupted in the middle of the contest, Cal was seemingly unfazed by the slick ball. And with a number of under classmen performing well in the contest, it bodes well for Cal in the latter rounds.

Cal will certainly be happy with the result but will welcome a much more physical and aggressive Navy side next weekend. Coach Jack Clark indicated that their focus will immediately shift to playing the service men.

“With due respect to Texas and what the Longhorns are building, the single-elimination postseason format leaves precious little time to spend on this outcome,” said head coach Jack Clark. “The United States of America Naval Academy and a bunch of well-coached stud guys are visiting Strawberry Canyon next Saturday. Needless to say, they have our respect and they demand our focus.”

Quarterfinal Recap: Navy Escapes With 1-Point Victory Over Clemson

Quarterfinal Recap: Navy Escapes With 1-Point Victory Over Clemson

For the second consecutive week, Navy escaped with a one-point victory in the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup. Navy won 24-23 over Clemson in a tight contest for their third victory over the Tigers this year.

Aaron Keers opened the scoring for Clemson, giving the Tigers and early 3-0 lead. Navy responded with a converted try from lock Cade Pope but Clemson mauled over a score to retake the lead 10-7. Jack McAuliffle evened the score minutes later with a penalty for Navy.

Clemson retook the lead with a penalty and made the game 18-10 when outside center Dylan Goulding darted over the line. The tigers swung the ball wide, exploiting the outside space after Navy received a yellow card a few minutes prior. The score was right at the 40-minute mark and Clemson went into the break with an eight-point lead.

Navy struck first in the second half off a five-meter scrum. In the 56th minute winger Ron Helms dotted down and the successful conversion left Clemson up one.  Helms and Ben Umpingo at the wings both had very good outings and Dakota Raymond at outside center was stout defensively. In fact, Navy coach Mike Flanagan indicated that the stellar backline from the Mid Shipmen was the probably the difference this afternoon.

The Tigers stemmed the Navy momentum thanks to another strong play from Goulding. The center broke through the Navy line and after a series of offloads Ryan Gilroy finished the play with a score in the corner. With the conversion sailing wide, Clemson led 23-17.

Clemson clung to a 6 six-point lead and defended valiantly despite a yellow card. The Midshipmen punched in a try off a break, however, and with the conversion, took their first lead since early in the first half. After several phases Kevin Kirchmer picked up the ball and rambled in for the score in the 72nd minute.

The visitors pushed into Navy territory but were unable to get any more points on the board. The final whistle blew with a 24-23 score.

Overall, it was a very clean game for Navy, as they committed very few turnovers. “I thought that our contact skills were good. We didn’t lose a lot of balls in contact and we kept the ball in our hands pretty well,” Flanagan added.

Navy continues to play well from behind and very easily could have lost this game. Flanagan praised the play of Clemson and their evolution through the season.

“Its hard to beat a team three times and they got better every time we played them,” Flanagan said of Clemson. “This was no exception. They were solid as a rock.”

For Clemson, they are a team on the rise and will ultimately be happy for with their performance in the tournament, but are currently disappointed with the final result.

“We were in position to win that game and to lose it late like that is tough to take,” said Clemson coach Justin Hickey.

With only a handful of seniors and a team that now believes it can compete at the Varsity Cup level, Clemson will a be a team to look out for in future Varsity Cups.

The semifinals of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup will take place next weekend. Navy will travel to Berkeley to take on the University of California.

Quarterfinal Recap: CWU Slips By Utah

Quarterfinal Recap: CWU Slips By Utah

In a gusting wind, Central Washington slipped by Utah 18-7 in a rare low scoring game for two hired powered offenses. The Wildcats used stout defense and a couple of timely scores to edge the Utes.

The first 30 minutes of the contest were back and forth with both teams trying to establish possession. A strong wind, however, bogged down both offenses and left chances gone begging.

The Wildcats overcame an early yellow card and were the first on the board in the 35thminute with a try from.  CWU was finally able to exploit an overload on the outside and the blindside flanker, Maverick Schirmer, dotted down in the corner to give the home side the 5-0 lead. The game would stay this way going into the break.

CWU doubled its advantage after a long run from Aladdin Schirmer. Maverick’s older brother has been a force all season for the Wildcats from his number 8 position and continues to create opportunities in the postseason for Central. Freshman Dominic Lindstrom barreled over from five meters following the long run and several phases.

“I have got to give it to Aladdin,” said CWU coach Tony Pacheco. “He had a really terrific game. You know senior day, last chance to play on the home ground, he took it upon himself to carry the boys.”

Utah responded with a try of its own, however, off a penalty. Tonata Lauti took the penalty quickly and darted over under the posts to cut the lead to 10-7. The Utes continued to apply pressure after the score, but CWU stemmed the momentum with a tough penalty 40 meters out. Josh Bower nailed the kick through a stiff wind to extend the lead to 13-7.

It remained a one score game until the 77th minute when Aladdin Schirmer sealed the victory with an unconverted try. CWU ran out the final three minutes to limit Utah to seven points and earn a berth in the next round.

“Our defensive shape was great today,” Pacheco said of his team. “We were really committed to it. We fell off some tackles at times but when you play a team like Utah you will have to defend for a lot of phases….I thought we did a pretty good job of handling that.”

Ultimately, Central Washington made a few more plays in the opposition territory to come away with victory. Pacheco believes that it was that execution that paved the way to victory.

“We are definitely happy to get the win and it was a hard fought contest. Both teams will probably look back on it and say we had the opportunity to score and didn’t take advantage of them. Fortunately we took advantage of three trying scoring opportunities.”

CWU will travel to BYU for a semi-final matchup next weekend.

Round 2 Preview: UCLA vs. BYU

Round 2 Preview: UCLA vs. BYU

After defeating Air Force 32-12 last weekend, UCLA will welcome two time reigning Penn Mutual Varsity Cup champions, BYU, to town. The Cougars come in with a perfect 11-0 record this year.

BYU is in search of its fourth consecutive national title, dominating their competition throughout the season. The Cougars have outscored opponents 769-142, computing to roughly 70 points scored per contest.

The halfback combination of Luke Motte at scrumhalf and Johnny Linehan at fly half has led the potent BYU attack. A combination upper classmen leadership and freshman have led the forward pack. All American Kyle Sumsion and rookie hooker Alex Vorster lead the way up front for BYU.

With a pair of wins against St. Mary’s and Utah, BYU has been firing on all cylinders. The team is excited to get back to work after a bye week.

“We’re anxious to get back on the pitch and continuing working towards our goal of winning the 2015 Varsity Cup,” said BYU rugby head coach David Smyth of BYU’s bye of the first round of playoffs.

For the Cougars, the goal has always been to repeat as champions of the Varsity Cup. “Every practice, every win has been focused on winning the Varsity Cup,” said BYU captain and All-American Kyle Sumsion. “Consistency has been key in our success.”

The first challenge to repeat will be a visit to a talented UCLA side that narrowly lost to Cal earlier this year.

For the home side, it will have to be a mistake free performance from the Bruins to defeat a quality BYU side. UCLA coach Scott Stewart emphasized the talent on the BYU squad and indicated his boys will have to win ball and make good use of it.

“We have our work cut out for us. They are an outstanding rugby team in every aspect,” Steward said of BYU. “We are going to have to make the most of our opportunities.”

UCLA is looking forward to playing a tough home opponent at home but knows a team with the notoriety of BYU brings a following.

“I know that Brigham Young travels very well,” Stewart added. “They have a lot of fans out here so we are expecting that there will be fans for both teams in the crowd and that’s what makes it great. We are looking forward to hosting high quality rugby at UCLA.”

Round 2 Preview: Texas vs. Cal

Round 2 Preview: Texas vs. Cal

After defeating Notre Dame in the first round of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup, Texas will welcome reigning Varsity Cup runner up Cal to Austin. The game will kickoff at 6pm ET.

The Bears, who currently sit at 15-1, have recently scored wins against St. Mary’s and British Columbia. Cal has averaged a lethal 58 points per game and only yielded a staunch eight points per contest. Cal is looking to extend their current winning strength to nine consecutive games.

The lineup for this weekend, however, will see eight new faces from the one that took on St. Mary’s. Cal head coach Jack Clark described the selection process as “a balance we need to strike in our overall approach to the postseason, and this means we will select a mixed team. Anyone carrying a nagging injury goes to the shelf for a week and we spread the responsibility for a victory among some of our reserves. We need to win, but we also need to be fresh for the subsequent matches, which only escalate in difficulty.”

Cal is hoping to head back to their third consecutive Varsity Cup final and will rely on creating depth for its talented roster. Clark indicated that the team was spread a little thin last year and hopes to get some of the younger players game experience.

“We took a few injuries leading up to and during last season’s final with BYU and our depth wasn’t championship sufficient,” Clark recounted of the road to the 2014 Varsity Cup final. “Getting more players postseason experience speaks to this objective of building the team’s depth.”

It will be a tough ask for a Texas team that lost 83-5 to the Golden Bears back in 2005. Nevertheless, the Longhorns welcome the challenge.

“Berkeley is the Golden Standard, said Texas coach Chris Hopps. “Most teams in America, if you are not named BYU, that is the way you measure yourself. It is going to be a monumental task to the guys.”

Texas understands the quality opponent that is Cal and immediately began focusing on the task at hand after the victory last Friday.

“After 10 minutes of celebrating, we kind of gathered up and talked about the kind of focus and bravery and intensity and all those things that go into a game, what it’s going to take to face up to them.”

Cal powered through the Varsity Cup last year with dominating wins over UCLA and Central Washington. Hopps indicated that Texas will give them everything they have this week in hopes of reaching the semi-finals.

“We are going to practice to win, we are going to come out to win,” said Hopps. “I can tell you one thing that both teams are going to wake up sore on Sunday.”