California bests BYU in 2016 Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Final 40-29 at South Field on May 7, 2016

Provo, UT- The physicality and persistence of the California Golden Bears proved to be too much for the Brigham Young University Cougars in the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup. With a late scoring run in second half, California finished with a 40-29 win in the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Final on Saturday, May 7, at South Field.

"Cal was the better team all-around today," said BYU rugby head coach David Smyth of the Golden Bears winning the 2016 championship. "They were more physical in the breakdown. They were very good in the lineouts. In fairness to our boys, we did have our moments in today's match."

The Cougars opened up the championship game against the Bears by kicking off. BYU struggled in the lineouts which created opportunities for California to score. After several phases by both teams, the Bears scored the first try of the day at the 13-minute mark. Despite a missed conversion, the Bears gained a 5-0 lead over the Cougars. 

Refusing to be held scoreless, BYU responded with a try by Zach Webber in the 29th minute. Calvin Whiting's conversion was good giving the Cougars a 7-5 lead. Five minutes later, BYU scored again with a try from BYU captain Ara Elkington. Whiting nailed his second conversion of the day putting the Cougars up 14-5. 

California answered back with its second try of the match closing the scoring gap to 14-12 with BYU still in the lead. However, neither team would score again in the first half.

Four minutes into the second half, BYU's Ryan Blaser found the tryline earning the Cougars another five points. Whiting's conversion was good increasing BYU's lead to 21-12. Taking advantage of a California penalty, Whiting completed a penalty kick changing the score to 24-12.

No. 1 BYU rugby seeks to complete 2016 season with Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Final win over California on May 7, 2016

Provo, UT- With four national championships in a row and five overall, the No. 1 Brigham Young University rugby team (22-0) seek to complete another perfect season with a Penn Mutual Varsity Cup final victory over the California Golden Bears on Saturday, May 7, at BYU's South Field.

"Our team has continued to play well and stay focused this season," said BYU rugby head coach David Smyth of his team's win streak since February 2014. "We've been able to see many players step up and perform on game day. Our forward pack has been reliable and our backs have come through each game. We'll need to keep it up this Saturday against Cal. They are always ready to play."

California has proven to be a formidable rival for the BYU Cougars under the leadership of head coach Jack Clark who took over in 1984. The Golden Bears have a history of dominance in the world of collegiate rugby with 12 consecutive national title wins from 1991-2002 and grand total of 26 national championships overall. Like the Cougars, the Bears have produced many All-Americans as well as members of the USA Eagles such as Seamus Kelly. Last year's Varsity Cup Final was a thriller as the Cougars finished on top with a 30-27 win at Rio Tinto Stadium. 

"Cal has a history of playing great rugby," said BYU senior scrumhalf Luke Mocke. "We can't take a break. We have to stay focused all 80-minutes and stick to what the coaches have worked with us on. Their coaching has paid off as shown by our team's ability to score and starve our opponents of the ball."

The Cougars have proved to be an offensive juggernaut throughout the 2016 Varsity Cup playoffs so far outscoring opponents 256-43 with a scoring average of 85.3 points per game. BYU's depth has shown on the rugby pitch as multiple Cougars have added tries to the scoreboard with points their forward pack. 

BYU Cougars Will Attempt Four-Peat Against California Golden Bears

BYU senior Dan Hubert runs the ball against CWU in the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup semifinals. BYU won 35-8 to advance to the championship match against Cal. Photo by Andrea Wride

Brigham Young University rugby head coach David Smyth will lead the Cougars (13-0) to achieve a feat on May 2 at Rio Tinto that has only been accomplished by one college rugby team: four-straight national championships.

The Cougars have four national titles overall which includes the last three championships in a row along with the 2009 national championship. But the only other rugby team to achieve this feat will be not-ironically suiting up against the Cougars this Saturday: California Berkeley.

The Bears own the record of consecutive championships at 12 from 1991-2002. And with a total of 26 titles to their tally, BYU’s four championships seem meager in quantity.

BYU senior Dan Hubert runs the ball against CWU in the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup semifinals. BYU won 35-8 to advance to the championship match against Cal. Photo by Andrea Wride

BYU and California have battled for the championship 8 times in the last 9 years with California owning the series at 5-3. But the Cougars have won the last two meetings in 2013 and 2014 and they know the Bears will be looking to change that recent trend at the 9th meeting this Saturday.

BYU Rugby: Cougars go for third straight title, set to face California in 2014 Varsity Cup Final

BYU Captain Kyle Sumsion answers questions from the media following last year's Varsity Cup Final victory over California. The Cougars and Golden Bears will meet for this year's championship Saturday in a rematch of last year's game.
BYU Captain Kyle Sumsion answers questions from the media following last year's Varsity Cup Final victory over California. The Cougars and Golden Bears will meet for this year's championship Saturday in a rematch of last year's game.

Provo, Utah—The 2014 Varsity Cup National Championship, which is played Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, will feature a rematch between defending champion BYU and runner-up Cal. The Cougars are looking to capture their fourth national championship in their ninth straight attempt.

“Both of these teams have had very good seasons and it seems fitting that we’ll be meeting again in the Varsity Cup Final,” BYU head coach David Smyth said. “Our boys have prepared all season for Saturday’s game and will spend this week fine-tuning our play in practice in anticipation of an incredibly talented and well-coached California team.”

BYU and California last met in the inaugural Varsity Cup National Championship last year on South Field in Provo.  BYU won late on Jonny Linehan’s drop goal in injury time to edge the Golden Bears 27-24. With this Saturday’s match up, BYU and California will have met in eight of the last nine national championships, with the lone exception being in 2012 when BYU beat Arkansas State for its second title.

“We’re very familiar with California seeing as how we’ve played them at the end of every season in recent memory,” Smyth said. “We know how good they are and always look forward to the challenge they present to us. It’s really college rugby at its finest.”

BYU Wins 3rd National Championship in 5 Years Beating Bears with Last-Second Drop Goal

BYU, Cal, Rugby, Varsity Cup

BYU Rugby: 2013 Varsity Cup National Champions
BYU Rugby: 2013 Varsity Cup National Champions

Provo, UT–The BYU Cougars won their third national championship in the last five years via a last-second drop goal from freshman flyhalf Jonny Linehan beating perennial champion California 27-24.

An evenly and hotly contested national title match drew near full-time in front of a capacity South Field Stadium crowd with BYU pressuring deep inside the California.

With the teams tied at 24-24 a BYU scrum left Cougar captain Ryan Roundy inches from the tryline. But a deft pass from the base of the ensuing ruck to Linehan gave the young flyhalf the hero’s touch capping an Vasity Cup National Championship MVP performance.

“I was just feeling it,” Linehan would say recounting his 22-point championship performance, “The drop goal was just one of those things where I had the space and I was right in front of the posts. I’m just glad it went over.”

With Linehan’s kick having crossed the posts in injury time, referee Brian Zapp blew the final whistle in the favor of the Cougars’ third Varsity Cup National Championship.

“To have a team like Cal on our home field and to be playing for the Varsity Cup is something you just never thought would happen,” said BYU senior captain Ryan Roundy, “And then to win this game the way we did. It’s going to take a while for it to really set in.”

The win over 26-time national champion California came with the Cougars taking a 16-10 lead into the halftime break.

BYU would surge to a 16-3 in the 26th minute after three penalty goals and an 11th minute from Linehan.

BYU Readies for National Championship Tilt Against Powerhouse Cal at South Field

Provo, UT—The Varsity Cup National Collegiate Rugby Championship pitting defending national champion BYU against perennial champion Cal, takes place this Saturday, May 4th at 1pm at BYU’s South Field Stadium.

Saturday’s clash of national rugby powerhouses marks the 7th time in the last 8 years that the two teams will meet. This will be BYU’s 8th straight championship game appearance after winning the title last year 49-42 over Arkansas State at Rio Tinto Stadium in front of 10,000 fans.

California owns the recent post-season series between the two teams dating back to 2006 with a 6-1 record and the last meeting also at Rio Tinto Stadium in front of over 12,000 fans going in the favor of the Golden Bears in 2011 by the score 21-14.

The Cougars beat the Bears in 2009 by the score 25-22 at Stanford’s Steuber Rugby Stadium when BYU came from behind in dramatic fashion after an early 12-0 deficit.

BYU captain Ryan Roundy knows this Saturday’s clash will be one he and his teammates won’t soon forget.

“This is one of those days you really look forward to,” Roundy said, “To have Cal on your home pitch here at South Field and to be playing for a National Championship on top of that. It doesn’t get any bigger than that.”

California comes into Saturday’s title tilt on a tear having beat a strong Navy side 74-6 last Saturday in the Varsity Cup semifinals in Berkeley after beating Notre Dame 77-0 the week before in the quarterfinals.

The Golden Bears won the Pacific Athletic Conference title outright with a 5-0 record and currently hold a 21-0 overall record on the 2013 season.

Cougars Beat Bruins Advance to Varsity Cup Semis

Los Angeles, CA–The BYU Cougars beat the UCLA Bruins for the second time this season to advance to the semifinals of the Varsity Cup National Collegiate Rugby Championships.

BYU ran in 10 tries for with wing Chris Wernli dotting down for a hat-trick of tries and beating the Bruins by the final score of 69-8.

The Bruins and Cougars met in January with BYU winning 84-14 but today’s quarterfinal match-up saw an improved UCLA team, said BYU head coach David Smyth.

“We were a little rusty not having played in three weeks,” Smyth said, “At the start of the game I thought were were just doing enough, UCLA played very well defensively and they contested every phase. [UCLA head coach] Scott Stewart has really done a great job with his guys and they played confidently throughout the game.”

The Cougars took some time to knock off the rust as Smyth said, with a variety of penalties and errors gave UCLA the lions share of field position and possession in the opening 5 minutes of the game.

But a solid sequence in couter attack led to junior flanker Kyle Sumsion scoring the opening try of the game in the 6th minute.

The first half was riddled with BYU errors in an effort to counter UCLA’s stiff defensive pressure at the break down. But the Cougars managed to not only control the majority of the field position, with over sixty-five percent in BYU’s favor, but they also were able to keep the Bruins out of the end goal.