BYU earned its second straight national title and first-ever Varsity Cup on South Field Saturday afternoon, defeating rival California 27-24 in a thriller that came down to the final seconds.
It was a low-scoring physical game, by both teams’ standards, but that didn’t stop BYU freshman halfback Jonny Linehan from grabbing MVP honors. Linehan scored 23 of BYU’s 27 points, including the game winning drop kick with just a few seconds left on the clock.
“A hundred percent of the time in practice I would put this through,” Linehan said. “But I wouldn’t want to have to do it again.”
BYU went up early in the first half and led throughout the game. Cal was able to tie the game with just over four minutes left, but a great run up the sidelines by junior Jordan Lowry set up the game winning kick by Linehan.
“We knew that if our defense could hold the wall, that we would have opportunities to score,” BYU senior and captain Ryan Roundy said.
The experience and leadership of the BYU seniors were crucial in the challenging game. BYU hasn’t faced many teams this season that could match its physicality.
“We really rely on our seniors to carry the day for us,” coach David Smyth said.
It was the seventh time in eight years that the two teams have faced off in the national championship game. Cal won six of those seven matchups, but BYU is undefeated in collegiate play on South Field.
“It’s a great way to go out in the last game of my college career,” Roundy said.
Freshman Linehan was able to break away early in the first half to put BYU up 7-0. But an illegal tackle by a BYU player gave Cal the opportunity to convert a penalty kick to cut the lead to four. But Linehan showed poise and was able to convert three penalty kicks of his own to keep BYU in the lead.
BYU led Cal 16-10 at the half after a heroic goal line stand by the defense. Cal came out of the locker room and was able to cut into BYU’s lead after nearly 20 minutes without a score.
Both teams played hard and had a player receive a yellow card and 10 minute penalty late in the second half. The penalties led to trys by both teams.
BYU now has three rugby national titles and with 11 of their starters returning next season, will look to make it four.