Cougars claw their way to a D1A National Championship

D1A Rugby: Cougars claw their way to a D1A National Championship

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – BYU won the USA Rugby D1A National Championship in thrilling fashion in front of a home crowd of 8,733 on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. A high scoring final saw the Cougars take out Arkansas State 49-42.

A fantastic first half saw BYU and Arkansas State exchange scores and put in dazzling runs and smashing tackles.

Pat Sullivan got the Red Wolves on the board first following a Cougar infringement with a penalty kick. A BYU mistake – kicking the ball out on the full from a dropout 22 – led to the first try. Arkansas State spun it wide and Dean Gericke finished in the corner.

A series of ASU penalties in their own half opened the door for BYU to score through Kekumi Tuaone. Six minutes later Fa’aitua Laei crossed for another try.

Zac Mizell was excellent for Arkansas State and scored a great try in the first half extending in the tackle and reaching out to score on the line.

Shaun Davies, who recently got invited to a USA Men’s National Team camp, crossed after he got an offload from Kekumi Tuaone and scurried to score under the sticks.

Will Taylor scored for the Cougars as well just before halftime and gave BYU a 27-15 lead.

In the second, BYU flyhalf Dylan Lubbe, connected with fellow All-American, Paul Lasike, for another Cougar try. Lubbe cut through the defense and found Lasike charging in support. An inside step and gas were enough for Lasike to get the score.

Sullivan crashed over for a try to bring the Red Wolves back and the remainder of the game featured electric offense from both teams as well as the physical and fast paced defensive game that was evident in the first half.

Zac Mizell scored a cracker, gathering a pass from Sullivan, juggling it, and eventually falling in the try zone in complete control for a five pointer.

BYU kept the pressure on and scored another through prop and crowd favorite Mikey Su’a who bashed through the Red Wolves’ defense for a score to the delight of the crowd.

Despite being down, Arkansas State battled back in the last 20 minutes and managed to score two more tries through Dale Bates and Paul Benade. An all-out effort from ASU couldn’t bring them back within striking distance though as BYU managed to wind down the clock and control the pace of the game.

Benade’s score came in the 80thminute and brought the Red Wolves within seven points, but it was just too late and BYU hung on to win.

Su’a, a senior, won the MVP award after an outstanding performance and gutsy effort the full 80 minutes.

“There is no better way to go out than by winning this National Championship,” Su’a said.

In typical selfless rugby fashion, Su’a deflected any personal accolades to the his teammates.

At the post-match press conference, Su’a said, “I don’t know if I’m worthy of the MVP award, I could think of three guys sitting next to me [Dylan Lubbe, Ryan Roundy, and Shaun Davies] that might be better, but I’ll accept in on behalf of the senior class.”

Roundy, the captain of BYU, was also outstanding and was a constant threat. On the emotions he felt following the win, Roundy said, “It’s an amazing feeling…especially coming up short the last couple of years. To finally play for [the seniors] and do it for them…all the hard work finally played off,” said Roundy.

BYU Head Coach, David Smyth, noted that his team’s mindset was key in the win.

“We’ve been in this situation seven different times and we’ve won a couple and let a couple get away from us…But these guys didn’t accept that losing was an option.”

This is the second National Championship that BYU has won in four years, and the outstanding senior class can leave BYU knowing they helped bring the title back to Provo.

Box Score:
BYU 49
Tries: Tuaone, Laei, Davies, Taylor, Lasike, Su’a
Conversions: Davies (5)
Penalties: Davies(3)
Arkansas State 42
Tries: Gericke, Mizell(2), Sullivan, Bates, Benade
Conversions: Sullivan (3)
Penalties: Sullivan (2)