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In the second game of a home and away series between Central Washington University and Brigham Young University, the Cougars repeated the tune of the first match beating the Wildcats, 55-12. With both squads moving on in search of postseason glory, the teams used this game to identify and shore up weaknesses before the playoffs begin.
"[BYU] was able to match their physicality, which allowed us a good platform to work off," BYU head coach David Smyth said. "Our forwards were able to get across the gain line, score some points themselves, and also set up scoring opportunities for the backs.”
“CWU was a big physical side,” Smyth added, “I thought for periods of the game they used a strong, direct approach which worked well for them. They started the game well, going through multiple phases for that first score of theirs. For us, it was about maintaining possession, working through the phases, and keeping pressure on them.”
At Helaman Field in Provo, Utah, CWU got off to a promising start with three minutes of intense pressure and phase play paying off with a try by Jeremy Lenaerts. The conversion was wide, but the Wildcats held the early 5-0 lead.
It didn’t take BYU long to respond as Win Elkington capped off a long counterattack run by his brother, Ara, for the try. Calvin Whiting added the conversion to take the 7-5 lead.
After a missed penalty, it was BYU again on the offensive. At 16’, the Cougars found themselves inside the 22. Josh Whippy slashed to the middle and passed behind his back to Kingston Matua for the score.Whippy found the endzone for himself eight minutes later with an 80-meter intercept try. The conversions were good and BYU extended its lead to 19-7.
For the last try of the half, BYU found themselves deep inside CWU territory. A lineout to maul saw a ruck at five meters. Recognizing an opening, Matua quickly grabbed the ball and beat the defender for the big stretch try. At the half, BYU led 24-7.
Starting with a scrum at its own 40, BYU picked up where it left off to begin the second half. The ball was spun out to the backs where Tua Laei dummied to the outside, shot the gap, and shed the fullback tackle for the 60-meter score. The Cougars followed it up with a stolen lineout then good ball movement through hands with great support to produce a Logan Nye try.
Up 38-7, BYU kept its foot on the gas scoring the next two tries. At 58’, Whiting broke the line and offloaded to Zach Webber on the wing for the try. Four minutes later, Kevin Schofield found daylight down the sideline, spun out of three tackles, and was tackled five meters short of the line. The forwards took over from there as Nye scored his second try. Whippy connected on the conversion for the 50-7 tally.
After being beaten down for most of the day, CWU finally got on the board in the second half taking advantage of a BYU mistake. After dropping the ball in the backline, CWU’s Tresten Keys kicked the ball downfield, out-sprinted his counterparts, and dived onto the ball in the endzone for the try.
The Wildcats never gave up and after a red card for a dump card with five minutes left, BYU used the opportunity for a final try by Jonny Layne. At the final whistle, the Cougars dominated with the 55-12 victory.
Speaking with CWU head coach Todd Thornley after the match, he said, “BYU created quick ball for their backline to capitalize on and defensively, we were poor. This game gives us great feedback on multiple areas of our game we must fix before playing on April 15.”
Thornley’s main takeaway was that “Overall as a program, we do no have the ability to play at a high level for 80 minutes for multiple reasons. However, from this experience, we have a great opportunity to learn and develop as a program further.” CWU hopes to remedy its issues before its Varsity Cup Quarterfinal of April 15th.
As for BYU, Coach Smyth awarded game balls to Ara Elkington, Jonny Layne, and Alex Vorster. “Ara had another good game, he worked hard on both sides of the ball. Jonny Layne did well also and was rewarded with a try near the end of the game. Vorster was very solid and was on the front foot all night.”
BYU has a match against Colorado State before the start of the D1A Playoffs, but Smyth isn’t focused on the postseason quite yet. “We haven't really discussed the playoffs yet. We are now playing some good rugby, we're making fewer mistakes, being more dynamic for longer periods of time. We're overall a better team than we were six weeks ago, but there is still room for improvement. So, we'll get right back at it and focus on the areas that will hopefully help us transition into the postseason frame of mind.”