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Saturday, March 10, 2018

St. Mary's Tops BYU In Provo

St. Mary's once again made their case as to why they are the best team in the country with a 37-29 win over BYU in Provo on Saturday. The Gaels now have landmark wins against several of the best teams in the country and look poised for a deep playoff run. For their part BYU were in it the whole match but were a step off from the level of St. Mary's.

The first five minutes saw both teams try to settle in with a number of errors. The first team to breakthrough was BYU. Their forwards went to work and after quick ball had Ben Webber score under the points (although he probably won't be scoring points on his dance celebration moves). Calvin Whiting made the conversion and BYU were up 7-0 with five minutes gone. St. Mary's did eventually put themselves in a position to score only to have their penalty attempt go wide.

Undeterred from giving up an early try St. Mary's heaped on the pressure, particularly with their forwards in the middle of the pitch. That pressure would soon pay dividends as No. 8 Vili Helu dragged several BYU players across for the try. Helu has been one of the players to watch in college rugby this year and has a bright future. The conversion knotted the score at 7-7.

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Having played each other a number of times over the last few years the match began to get chippy. Nothing much came of it other than a penalty for BYU that Calvin Whiting hit to put BYU up 10-7. The Cougars continued to press after their try by the St. Mary's defense was up to the task and was able to thwart their efforts. Unfortunately for the Gaels they simply didn't have enough of the ball to make an impact offensively. That would be until eight minutes until halftime. From a scrum roughly 15 meters out St. Mary's was able to catch the BYU defense unorganized allowing Alex Barton to score. With the conversion St. Mary's led 14-10. St. Mary's scored once more before the half, despite the second half, with Francois Pieterse to extend the lead to 19-10 at halftime.

Sean Yacoubian had a penalty to extend the lead for St. Mary's a few minutes into the second half but BYU came back with an excellent try. St. Mary's box kick didn't go as planned and that allowed BYU to send the ball across the pitch where their wingers went to work. One was caught close to the line but Sam Roberts was there to pounce for the score. With the conversion BYU was back in it at 22-17.

Neither team would be accused of playing the most attractive rugby for the next ten minutes. That said, the next score went to St. Mary's as they were simply quicker to the ball and looked more sure of what to do once they had it in their hands. They soon had a try to push their lead to 29-17.

BYU would peg a try back as Justin Weaver, a replacement wing, scored in the corner. With twenty minutes left it was one try difference at 29-22. It stayed that way until a dozen minutes left. That's when Yacoubian hit a penalty to extend the lead. BYU made it really interesting with a try against the grain with six minutes left. That cut it St. Mary's lead to just three. Not to be outdone St. Mary's raced the other way where Liam Cotter put the exclamation mark on the match.

It was a solid win for St. Mary's but it follows a pattern of winning they have set all year. For BYU it's another setback and will have the program asking questions about how they can beat the Gaels.

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