You are here
Epic rivals Utah and BYU meet Saturday in St. George, Utah for a regular season friendly at Snow Canyon High School. The Wasatch Cup will not be up for grabs until the March 21 rematch, but make no mistake, Saturday’s game is still a varsity match between two teams who want to beat each other really bad.
St. George was picked as the venue for this contest, even though it's about three-and-a-half hours from both teams' campuses, because the desert climate assures there’ll be no snow. But the setting is also fitting, because Snow Canyon is the defending Utah Youth Rugby state champion, and Soutern Utah is still Ute and Cougar country, so the match is a treat for the local rugby community.
“All the high schools from that area will be at the game, and the young men, the rugby players in the crowd, they’ll either probably end up playing at Utah or BYU,” Cougars coach David Smyth told Rugby Today. “They’ll get to see what both teams are like that day – show them what the future can be from a rugby perspective.”
BYU is coming off a season-opening blowout win over Arizona State, while Utah is just a couple of weeks removed from being on the other side of the sword against St. Mary’s. Between that loss and now, though, the Utes did go undefeated to win the Pac-12 North tournament in Corvallis, Ore.
“We were humbled when we played against St. Mary’s. We got caught up thinking we were a lot better than we actually were, so that was a great game for us to learn many lessons from,” said Utah coach Haloti Liava’a.
“The boys came back and worked very hard that next week and won that tournament at Oregon State and the boys played very well. So we got a lot better from the St. Mary’s game just to the tournament last week, and we got better this week, so I expect a very good game out of our boys against BYU.”
The Utes were also missing half a dozen or so front line guys against the Gaels, most of whom are back in action. The Cougars are still a little hobbled, as the Whippy brothers and Paul Lasike are out with injury and Jonny Linehan returns from one.
Lasike was hurt in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in Los Angeles. His injury remains undiagnosed at the moment, and it’s unclear how much of the season he’ll miss, due to either that or unavailability as he preps for the NFL Draft. Still, the Cougars are used to playing without Lasike, and they’re as deep as anyone.
“We’ll be okay, but we won’t have all our top guns there,” said Smyth. “It’s a good opportunity for other guys to step up and play like they did against Arizona State.”
Though BYU is heavily favored in the contest, both sides know it’ll be a battle.
“This stage of the season, everybody can say this, can say that, I really don’t know. All I know is when we play Utah we’ll get the best out of them,” Smyth. “It’ll be a different game than when they played St. Mary’s, I’m fairly confident of that, because it’s BYU versus Utah.”
“They’re going to be big in the forwards and their backline is just awesome. I think they have one of the best in the country,” said Liava’a of BYU. “They’re big, they’re strong, they’re fast and they’re experienced. We’re going to have a tough time on our hands trying to stop the backline, and so we need to be quick to reset on defense and come up and put a lot of pressure on their backline hopefully to cause some mistakes. It’s going to be tough, but we’re up for the challenge.”