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The #3-ranked BYU Cougars emerged from their clash with #1 St. Mary's 35-21 victors Saturday in Provo, Utah.
Paced by some impressive running from fullback Josh Whippy and with capped flanker and captain Kyle Sumsion leading by example, the Cougars escaped some scary moments, and also miscued on a few ideal scoring opportunities of their own.
St. Mary's were the better team on restarts, often winning their own kickoffs and those from BYU. And the Gaels were the stronger scrummaging team, but neither really controlled the lineouts, and BYU won the game on superior kicking in open play and a slightly more organized defensive front.
BYU started well, breaking through early on. St. Mary's stopped them but off a turnover at the ruck scrumhalf Luke Mocke booted the ball downfield, and the chase forced a kick from St. Mary's that played right into BYU's hands. On counter-attack, flyhalf Jonny Linehan lofted a chip kick which was fielded Jared Whippy, and popped back to Linehan who scored.
The Cougars almost scored again when Seki Kofe broke through, but the Gaels somehow rescued the situation.
St. Mary's managed to work an attack on BYU and earned a penalty, slotted by Dylan Audsley. Audsley would miss another effort moments later.
Linehan slotted two kicks of his own, as both teams hit each other very hard, causing more than a few knock-ons.
Later in the first half, BYU kicked deep, and then Sumsion stole the St. Mary's lineout throw. BYU quickly spun the ball wide and Jared Whippy went over for the second Cougars try. Linehan converted for the 20-3 lead.
But the Gaels didn't fold, and put together their best attacking movement yet. After a long period of pressure, with the Gaels offloading effectively out of contact,
Joey Reavey Nick Schlobohm weaved in
to score. Audsley's kick made it 20-10.
BYU had an excellent chance to score one more and Linehan seemed in easily. But somehow St. Mary's flyhalf Garrett Brewer reached out and stripped the ball away at the last moment.
St. Mary's won the kickoff for the second half and earned a penalty from long range and a tough angle, but Audsley was good for it. And then a key moment. St. Mary's knocked the ball forward and lost it. With advantage being played, BYU took the ball into a ruck, and recycled. At this point, some refs might have said advantage over. It was not said in this case, and as the ball went out through the backs, St. Mary's back Kingsley McGowan intercepted and would have been untouched under the posts.
But the play was called back for the initial knock-on. Certainly referee Phil Akroyd was well within his rights to rule when advantage had been gained, and BYU's advantage at that point was somewhat minimal. But had he called advantage over, the game would have been tied up.
Instead, BYU kept up the attack and looked again set to score, only to knock the ball on inside the five-meter. Sumsion bulled through on a superb line later on, and was just hauled down by a hard-working Gaels defense.
Eventually the third try came. BYU had the ball right on the line, passed it out, and Brewer stuck his hand out to block the pass - a fairly clear intentional knock-on and a penalty try to BYU. 27-13.
Once again seemingly out of it, the Gaels rebounded, and capped off an excellent round of play that started when Sumsion was called for faking a pass at the base of the ruck (a little-known infraction that surprised some of the Cougars but was a good call by Akroyd).
McGowan featured heavily in the St. Mary's attack, and finally a nice set of passes put Michael McCarthy in at the corner.
That made it 27-18. The two teams traded penalties before, right at the end of the game, Josh Whippy scored a brilliant try.
St. Mary's had some chances late, but the BYU defense was too much.
In the end, BYU could have scored a few more tries, but were stopped by some mistakes on their end, and some brave defense by St. Mary's. The Gaels were a little unlucky at times, but will be ruing their imability to win some key lineouts.
Tries: Linehan, Ja. Whippy, Penalty Try, Jo. Whippy
Convs: Linehan 3
Pens: Linehan 3
St. Mary's 21
Tries: Schlobohm, McCarthy
Pens: Audsley 3