BYU’s road to a fourth consecutive Penn Mutual Varsity Cup championship goes through the desert. The Cougars will travel to Arizona State in the opening round of play this weekend.
David Smyth’s team comes in with a blistering 19-0 record this season and an unbeaten streak that extends back to February of 2014. The Cougars beat St. Mary’s twice, Central Washington, Army and Air Force this season and are gearing up for another title run.
Despite losing Johnny Linehan to football commitments and losing several players to graduation, BYU has not missed a beat. In the back line, Calvin Whiting and Kevin Schoefield have been try scoring machines while Zane Mendenhall and Joe Pikula lead a talented BYU pack.
“Many players stepped up to the challenge this season and we will need them to do it again against ASU,” said BYU rugby head coach David Smyth of BYU’s undefeated record. “We were able to develop more players this year and those who received those opportunities played well.”
Arizona State knows they are up against a juggernaut but will attempt to do what nobody has done in over two years, beat the Cougars.
“I think they are a better team than they have been,” ASU coach Gary Lane said of BYU. “I have watched a lot of tape and they are clinical and just relentless.”
It will take an inspiring performance from the Sun Devils to give BYU a run for its money. Slowing down the potent BYU attack requires activity at the ruck and keeping the ball out of the enemy’s hands.
“I definitely think we need to contest at the breakdown and we have got to keep possession when we have it,” Lane added.
ASU has been playing well of late and coach Lane is hoping to carry that momentum into the match. A very young side, the spring has been a valuable earning curb for them.
“The guys have worked very hard. I absolutely trilled with the work ethic of this team. They are a very good, close knit group of men that just work very very hard and have achieved good things by pure hard work,” Lane concluded.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
Provo, UT—After a one year respite one of collegiate sport’s greatest rivalries will be renewed on the campus of Brigham Young University where perennial national champion the University of California will look to upend the defending national champion BYU Cougars at their home venue of South Field Stadium in the Varsity Cup National Collegiate Rugby Championship this Saturday, May 4th at 1pm MT.
In the last eight years the Golden Bears and Cougars have met for the national championship seven times—a streak of collegiate sport dominance unrivaled by other varsity sports.
WATCH THIS CLASH OF CHAMPIONS LIVE HERE ON VARSITYCUP.US!
Kick-off: Saturday, May 4th @ 1pm MT