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To be the best, you have to play the best. No. 2 ranked Brigham Young University has a challenging schedule this spring and in order to be prepared for the D1A National Playoffs in April, the Cougars played one of the best men’s club teams, the Glendale Raptors, on Saturday at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo. Despite its best efforts, BYU was able to keep close for a little while before the Raptors’ skill and physicality won out to a 57-12 Glendale victory.
BYU gained valuable experience from the match against a superior club. “It was mostly positive,” BYU head coach David Smyth said. “We knew what we were getting into when we scheduled the game. We wanted our boys to come up against a really strong team and learn something from it.”
Glendale was first on the board with a try from Kyle Hitt, but BYU came right back as Josh Whippy scored off a backline move under the posts. Scoring on the Raptors gave the Cougars momentum, however, they couldn’t get close enough to score.
Thirty minutes on the clock ticked away before any team scored again. The Raptors’ Max de Achaval found the endzone twice in five minutes to silence BYU’s drive and another try by Will Holder extended the lead to 24-7 at the half.
As the second half began, Glendale continued to amp up the pressure as Zach Fenogolio and Justin Pauga scored in the first 15 minutes of the period. BYU got back in the act in the 60th minute as the ball went wide and Coleman Meyer beat his opposite number on the overlap to the corner.
The Raptors responded in kind with Fenogolio’s second try four minutes later followed by scores from Holder and Max Statler in the last ten minutes.
Even though the Raptors ultimately blew out BYU, head coach David Williams was critical of his club’s play. “In the first half, we committed too many mistakes and errors that let them put pressure on us. Once we got into our shape, cut down on mistakes, and played to our pattern, we were pretty effective.”
“As soon as we won the physicality battle, we got over the gain line, compressed their defense and then took advantage of the holes that were created,” Williams added. “In the first 20-30 minutes, we didn’t do that hence why the scored was close. It just opened up at the end of the first half and we took advantage of that in the second half.”
“We were prepared for what they were going to do, we just couldn’t stop it,” Coach Smyth said of Glendale. “They were a little bit fitter than us, they were bigger than us. You got a lot of very good rugby players on the field. Their skillset is a high level and for some of our boys, that was a bit of a reach.”
Coach Smyth praised his squad and singled out Alex Vorster, Matt Jensen, and Josh Whippy for their exemplary play. “Vorster did very well in the scrums and got around the field very well, played tough. Jensen was good in the lineouts and was pretty fit around the field. Whippy took his try well and he was a threat with ball in hand.”
For Glendale, blindside flanker Brian Wanless earned Man of the Match. “Brian was phenomenal for us,” Williams stated. “He carried very well and got us on the front foot numerous times during the game. Max de Achaval, he played well marshaling the backline and kicked well. Will Holder is a great addition to our team. Overall, Logan Collins played well and does the unseen work. Mose Timoteo did really well at #9 and did exactly what I wanted of him. He kept control of the game and our pattern.”
Coach Williams only had good things to say about BYU. “They are a very storied and historic program that is one of the best, if not the best program in the country. I think its great that they have the foresight to play against men’s club teams. They need the physicality, they need to get used to the high standard of play, the speed of the game and react to it. I think that will serve them better when they go to Saint Mary’s this weekend and continue the season as a D1A program.”
With the trip to Moraga, Calif. on Saturday to face Saint Mary’s, Coach Smyth knows that “the better teams we play against, the better you become. I definitely think we learned a lot from [Glendale] and it helps us be a better team. When we go to play Saint Mary’s, we will have come off the back of a very challenging game. Hopefully, the boys will use that to motivate themselves to come out against Saint Mary’s and do well.”
For the Raptors, Glendale will be going into its next match on Saturday at New Orleans essentially blind. “Absolutely no idea [what to expect],” Williams remarked. “We’ll go down there with definitely a good team and we will play exactly the shape and pattern I want to play and we’ll just keep on progressing.” After NOLA, Glendale will gear up for its rematch against the Austin Huns at Infinity Park.