BYU beats Utah to win Wasatch Cup

The first-place Cougar rugby team defeated a tough fourth-ranked Utah team 38-22 at home on Saturday. The Cougars' hard-fought victory over Utah ensured that the silver Wasatch Cup stays in Provo. The Cougars have never lost a Wasatch Cup championship to their rivals.

Senior Shaun Davies put the Cougars up early on Saturday after scoring three points with a field goal. In fact, BYU's first six points came by way of Davies' leg after two hard-fought drives where Utah had penalties setting up both field goals.

"It was just a normal rivalry game where both sides were heated up where they give us their best game and we hopefully give them ours," said Cougar captain Ryan Roundy. "Overall it was just a good match. We had a little bit of an advantage being on our home field, but it was two great teams coming down to play in front of a great crowd."

The Cougars really turned up the heat after sophomore outside center Paul Lasike took a pass up the middle, cut through the Utah defense and sprinted down the field to score the first Cougar try.

"Lasike is a great rugby player and was born and raised in New Zealand," said Coach Smyth. "Now he has challenges to turn it over to the football side of things and see what he can do with that. From the athletic point of view he has all the tools. I mean, he can run, he can hit and he can move and he's got great balance. He's fantastic in rugby and I'm hopeful he'll do very well in football as well."

However, BYU got careless with the ball on the inside pitch exchanges. A Utah player rushed the gap on a pitch and took it down for a long try score to get on the board.

"Utah is a team that if you make a mistake, they'll make you pay for it," said Roundy. "In the first half, we made a few mistakes and they were able to capitalize on it."

The Utes, coached by Blake Burdette, hung tough with BYU for a while.

"I thought Blake's team did well today," said Coach Smyth. "They came in here and played physical in front of a hostile crowd and handled themselves quite well."

It wasn't long before Utah went ahead 15-13 after BYU continued to play sloppy, allowing turnovers down the line and in the ruck.

"That's why they came back, you know," said Coach Smyth. "We got a little bit loose with the ball. We started making some mistakes and some turnovers, and that's so Utah. If you give them an inch, they'll take a yard."

Just before halftime, BYU retook the lead 16-15 following a Davies field goal.

In the second half, the Cougars cleaned up their play and got things going. Roundy scored a quick try after the Cougars marched downfield, and the Cougars never looked back.

"We were just telling the boys at halftime, ‘Cut the mistakes and you'll be fine, but if you make mistakes you better be ready for it,'" said Coach Smyth. "So at the half, especially in those last 20 minutes, we came down and went through the phases and didn't turn the ball over as much. I thought we would be able to control and do much better at that point."

Former BYU football player-turned-rugby wing Malosi Te'o repaid Utah with an interception of his own down the line. Splitting the defenders, Te'o read the pitch play and was able to snag the ball in mid-air. It was then off to the races. Te'o ran nearly three-quarters of the field and dove to score another Cougar try. The BYU crowd went crazy.

"Well, you know, Malosi is fairly new to rugby," said Coach Smyth. "You know, he's a great student of the game right now and he wants to learn and is hungry. He's like a sponge and is always asking questions and working hard in practice. Obviously he has a lot of athletic ability, so now we're just trying to tailor that to the game of rugby. If he keeps working hard he'll be just fine."

The Cougars would eventually pull away to a 38-22 lead in what was one of the more physical games of the season to win the Wasatch Cup.

"We have great athletes on this team and we all have a special bond," said Roundy. "We all know it and feel if we could come together as a team having those things, then we could be a special team this year. We have no down players on this field and have a lot of talent, so it's great to see it all come together on the field. It's been fun."

Sideline notes

A coach from the University of Utah was escorted off the field by BYU campus police after nearly starting an altercation with the sideline announcer. Apparently, the Utah coach wasn't pleased with the color commentary and made comments to the announcer.

When the sideline announcer gestured to the Utah coach as if to give him the microphone, it was abruptly slapped out of his hands and fell to the ground. BYU campus police were called in to escort the coach off the field, and then spoke to him. Cooler heads prevailed and the Utah coach later was allowed to return and rejoin his team.

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