Saturday, March 11, 2017

BYU Escapes From St. Mary's

Photo: Ryan Turner

It was a clash of two of college rugby's best teams as #1 St. Mary's traveled to Provo to play #4 BYU at Helaman Field on Saturday. It was a close match throughout but in the end BYU's tryline defense and their quick start were the difference in a 35-26 win.

BYU got out to a white hot start with two tries in the first five minutes. The first came via Josh Whippy with less than a minute played. Just moments later Alex Vorster dummies through a cap to score. Calvin Whiting hit one of the two conversions to put BYU up 12-0.

Full credit to St. Mary's for weathering the early storm. They stayed patient and were soon rewarded with a lot of time with the ball and good field position. It took time to break the BYU defense down but in the process they earned a couple of penalties that Dylan Audsley hit to cut the deficit in half at 12-6. Whiting tried to respond with a long penalty but he wasn't able to connect.

Take the jump to read more.

The good weather conditions led to some attacking rugby but the passing from each team wasn't always crisp with multiple opportunities slipping away. Still, St. Mary's were the better of the two teams during the stretch behind the play of Kevin O'Connor and Audsley. Soon they were rewarded with a fantastic team try that was finished off by Cory Kroeger. With Audsley's conversion the Gaels led 13-12.

It wasn't to last as BYU struck back right away. Tua Laei capitalized on a good run and better offload from Kevin Schofield to retake the lead at 19-13. Whiting would also add another penalty to push the halftime advantage to 22-13.

In the second half St. Mary's chipped away at the deficit with a couple of penalties to pull within three at 22-19. The Gaels even came close to taking the lead on a couple of occasions as they were frequent visitors to the BYU 22 but credit to the BYU defense for coming up firm and creating stops. Off one of those stops they were able to counterattack. A great run from Zach Webber put the Cougars down the pitch and then an offload to Kingston Matua led to a try. Whiting was on with the conversion and the Cougar led moved to 29-19. They soon added a penalty from Whiting to extend the lead.

St. Mary's weren't done, however. They did well to take advantage of a number of BYU penalties to move close. From an attacking lineout they used their maul to get close to the line before Holden Yungert spun off for a try in the corner. Audsley's tough conversion was good as it was a one try game at 32-26. Unfortunately for St. Mary's as much as they tried they weren't able to find that final breakthrough and instead another penalty from Whiting sealed the match at 35-26.

BYU will have to feel extra happy about the win after falling in Moraga last month. Now if these two teams face each other in the DI-A playoffs BYU will have the momentum.

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