BYU rugby faced the New York Athletic Club in one of the most physical games the Cougars have ever played.
NYAC narrowly defeated BYU 22–16 on Saturday at South Field. This game was titled the Champions Challenge, but this physically straining game truly was a war, as the top collegiate team faced the top semi-professional team in the United States.
“It was a great opportunity to play a big and quality team like BYU,” NYAC flanker Neil McMillan said. “They are a great physical side that are coached really well.”
The game kicked off with both sides hitting hard and building upon each others’ intensity. Three people were down and injured in the first seven minutes of the game, including BYU freshman halfback Jonathan Linehan, who was carried off the field. The intensity kept building as the Cougars made it down to NYAC’s side of the field. Junior center Paul Lasik kicked a penalty kick through the uprights to give BYU an early 3–0 lead.
“Linehan is a crucial piece of the puzzle; losing him was huge,” senior hook Ray Forrester said. “This was a very physical game, and that is when the mental part of the game comes in. You can never be too tough.”
However, NYAC fired back with more intensity, scoring two trys in the last 15 minutes of the half. At the half, BYU was down 12–3.
The second half started with the fans on the edge of their seats, tense and fully engaged. BYU again scored the first points of the half with a penalty kick shortening the lead to 12–6. However, NYAC again took advantage of the small mistakes BYU made and created big results, scoring two more trys in the second half. This raised the score to 22–6.
“They are a very strong team,” senior lock TJ Allred said. “We had a lot of opportunities that we just let slip away. We needed to be more aggressive.”
BYU wasn’t prepared for how aggressive a team NYAC is, and the game came to a halt again when junior flanker Kyle Sumsion was escorted off the field by an ambulance with 10 minutes left in the game.
With little time left on the clock, the Cougars played with urgency and aggression scoring a late try with three minutes left. The score was 22–11, and with one last burst of speed, BYU scored with 20 seconds left on the clock and not enough time to even the score. The game ended 22–16 in favor of NYAC in a high-pace, high-aggression and high-intensity game.
“We learned a lot of things this game,” BYU coach David Smyth said. “We learned our boys are not going to back down, not ever.”