Cal showed their class on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium in Rio Tinto Stadium Saturday by staying off a very good BYU Cougars side fueled by enormous support in their home state. With a final score of 21-14, the crowd of nearly 11,000 got their money’s worth. Cal’s cool-headed flyhalf, James Bailes, anchored his team’s backline expertly and earned MVP honors that he bashfully accepted.
The first 20 minutes BYU was able to maintain posession, but rarely got out of their own half and even more rarely got into Cal’s 22. Some handling errors creeped into BYU’s play and some major attacking opportunities were brought to a screeching halt as a result.
Cal didn’t panic and continued to compete at the breakdown and hold their defensive lines. BYU, perhaps as a result of Cal’s stonewall defense, started to try and kick to the corners. However, Cal’s back three; Blaine Scully, Dustin Muhn, and James McTurk, were up to the challenge and were able to claim a lot of ball in the air despite some very firm challenges from BYU’s chasers.
Cougar flyhalf, Dylan Lubbe, had an absolute cracker of a game, playing with an intensity and a swagger on both sides of tha ball that was an inspirational force for the Cougars.
It wasn’t until the 23rd minute that either team scored, and Cal happened to be the squad that did. Blindside flanker, Derek Asbun, powered through the BYU defense to get his team on the board. Bailes would convert the score.
Cal’s lineouts were the only trouble spot for the Golden Bears and BYU’s jumpers were able to spoil ball and pressure Cal regularly.
BYU’s poured into the rucks effectively and were able to secure most of their ball, but their loose forwards were exceptional with ball in hand, to that end, Aspensia Malani, the stout blindside wing for BYU, crossed the line after breaking through a series of Cal tackles, and just like that, it was a three-point ball game.
Bailes would slot a penalty kick before halftime and the scores were at 13-7 when the teams went into the tunnel.
The second half started as the sun started to set at Rio Tinto, and both teams came out firing. BYU’s handling let them down again, perhaps the nervousness caused by the expectations of the rowdy mass of supporters in the stands, and it seemed they were just getting ahead of themselves and not catching good ball in backline moves. Cal didn’t have such problems.
Cal continued absorbing solid BYU tackles all game and didn’t back down or begin to shy away or hestiate from going into contact. Point and case: Seamus Kelly’s try in the 60th minute that would prove to be the game-winner. Kelly ran onto a beautiful ball from Bailes and he turned a sliver-of-a-gap in BYU’s defense into a gaping hole with his pace and power.
BYU answered back seven minutes later as Sosaia Leaaetoa scored a try to give BYU a breath of life in the game.
Cal’s precision prevailed in the end and they managed the last 12 minutes of the game well and BYU helped them do so with a few handling errors and careless penalties.