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In Provo, Utah Saturday, BYU defeated a scrappy Central Washington side, 35-8, to advance to the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup final. The Cougars used a strong second-half performance to outlast the Wildcats.
Central Washington hung tough in the early stages of the game, controlling a decent amount of possession. The Wildcats earned a penalty inside the BYU 22, but an attempt at goal 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 attempt 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, 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. 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.”
BYU No. 8 Joe Pikula scored off a five-meter penalty, barely squeezing over the line. Linehan then 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.
"Central Washington’s front line was strong,” Linehan said. “Our forwards and backs communicated really well throughout the match allowing several of 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.
"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 title at 4 p.m. ET May 2nd. The game will be aired live on the NBC Sports Network.