BYU rugby falls in title game after big second half from Cal

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(Natalie Saunders)
A BYU player holds off a defender on a way to a try earlier this year. The Cougars fell to Cal in the title game on Saturday. (Natalie Saunders)

A late surge from the California Golden Bears stopped the BYU rugby team from a bid from winning its fifth consecutive Varsity Cup title and ruined its perfect season.

Despite leading at the half, the Cougars, which finished the season 22-1,  just couldn’t keep up with the Bears in the last 40 minutes.

The Bears were the first to get on the board, scoring a try 13 minutes into the game to take the lead 5-0 after a missed conversion kick.

The Cougars responded near the 21-minute mark, evening the score at five after Zach Webber scored a try. The conversion kick put BYU up 7-5.

Following this, the Cougars put seven more points on the board to take a 14-5 lead. Cal responded with seven points of its own, leaving BYU ahead 14-12 at the half.

BYU committed 8 knock-ons, twice as many as Cal, in the first half, which contributed to the closeness of the game.

The Cougars came out strong in the second half, jumping out to a 29-19 lead near the 54-minute mark after completing two tries, a conversion kick and a penalty kick.

But Cal responded with a surge of its own.

After missing a penalty kicking at the 65-minute mark while still trailing 29-19, the Bears then scored three tries in about seven minutes, as well as all three conversion kicks, giving them a 40-29 lead with just under four minutes remaining in the game.

The Cougars were unable to respond and fell 40-29.

Sophomore Jonny Layne said his team wasn’t ashamed of the loss.

“We definitely can’t hang our heads,” Layne said. “It was a well fought match.”

Cougars head coach David Smyth said he was very pleased with the entire season, even though the Cougars stumbled when it mattered most.

“I’m really proud,” Smyth said. “Just because we lost today doesn’t take away the hard work we’ve done all year. (We) obviously would’ve liked to have won today, but we didn’t, so we learn from it and come back and be stronger.”

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