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The 2013 Varsity Cup may have been a controversial game – the final of a rogue competition seemingly designed to pit familiar foes against one another – but it definitely delivered in terms of standard of play, atmosphere, star quality and excitement.
BYU and Cal had met in six of the previous seven National Championship games before the Bears opted out of the 2012 DI-A competition, so the 2013 Varsity Cup was the reunion of college rugby’s most high profile rivalry. The quality of rugby was as good as it had ever been, with open running, stifling defense, great individual efforts and a storybook finish.
BYU jumped out to a 16-3 lead largely off the boot of freshman flyhalf Jonny Linehan, who slotted three penalties and a conversion in the first half. Linehan would go on to be named the final’s MVP for his kicking effort, but he impacted the game in every way, including on defense.
Cal got a converted try to pull within six at 16-10, but the Bears might have eclipsed the Cougars going into halftime if not for Linehan’s try-saving tackle on prop Tanner Mohr. Cal had a point-blank penalty play, which flyhalf Russell Webb quick-tapped and spun wide. Mohr had one man to beat – Linehan – but the freshman stuck his shoulder in the legs of the lumbering prop to bring him down. Cal threatened to score for the remainder of the half, and ultimately a Jake Anderson shot at goal was missed, leaving BYU up at intermission. If Linehan missed that tackle on Mohr, the Bears could have owned the lead and momentum.
Four-time All American Seamus Kelly had been running up against BYU All American Paul Lasike all afternoon, finding little daylight. But he was big for the Bears in roles other than ballcarrier throughout the game, including in support. He found himself in the right place at the right time to catch an offload and score the try that would bring Cal level with BYU at 24-24 late in the second half.
Not long after Kelly, the veteran, made his mark on the final’s score sheet, the freshman stole the show. With BYU pounding at the Cal try line and no time left on the clock, Linehan slotted the game-winning dropgoal to decide the inaugural Varsity Cup title.
The final play and the game speak for themselves as RUGBYMag;s Game of the Year, so check them out below if you haven’t seen them before.