The BYU rugby team overcame a litany of mistakes in the first half to find victory over the University of Arizona Wildcats, winning 80-8 in front of their home-crowd fans on Friday night.
The game keeps BYU undefeated on the season, improving the team’s record to 11-0.
Arizona came out ready to play, matching the physicality of BYU in the first 20 minutes as both teams struggled to move the ball. A penalty by BYU close to the goal-line gave the Wildcats a chance to put points on the board and begin the scoring on the evening.
“We started off slow,” said BYU captain Ryan Roundy. “I think that we were thinking about the game too much, just too tight.”
The Cougars struggled to cope with the Wildcat strategy of clearing the ball and making a concerted effort to jar the ball free from the handler.
“The first 20 minutes we were a little bit slow out of the blocks,” said BYU head coach David Smyth. “We made some elementary mistakes early, but right about that 20-minute mark we seemed to kick it into high gear.”
High gear for the Cougars meant a quick score from Roundy, which would be the only nudge necessary to get the team down the field and across the goal line.
The only thing that seemed to slow down BYU was an injury to scrumhalf Shaun Davies. Davies, who was responsible for attempting conversions after tries, suffered a cut above his eye that required a bandage. The bandage only seemed to help his aim, as Davies completed 10-of-12 kicks on the evening.
“Davies was definitely better after adding his head bandage,” Roundy said. “Maybe he should keep it in on for future games.”
Nine players scored for the Cougars, with Paul Lasike registering a team-high three tries.
Winger Will Taylor had one of the most impressive, highlight-reel worthy tries of the evening in the 68th minute. He received the ball from a teammate, then cut, bumped and sprinted through five Wildcats to stretch the ball across the plane.
Not to be outdone by his teammate, center Seki Kofe finished the scoring for the evening by feinting his defender out of position with a ball-fake, then exploding past the off-balance Wildcat in the 78th minute.
“Our backs played exceptional today,” Roundy said. “Kofe and Lasike were running great lines. No one on Arizona could tackle them, they were strong and played well today.”
Despite the 72-point margin of victory, players and coaches both spoke of problems that will need addressing in practice to prepare for a rivalry game against the University of Utah next weekend with the Wasatch Cup at stake.
“I’d say that we performed at about a six today,” Smyth said. “The beginning was a little bit slow, and we’ve just got to be a little more consistent, a little more clinical when we have the ball in our hand. I was happy with definite parts of the game, where we were more clinical and executed very well. When we do that, we are a hard team to stop. It’s just something we have to do more consistently.”
Utah played Arizona in Tucson last weekend, defeating the Wildcats 68-15.
The game will be played in Provo on Saturday, April 7. The game is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.