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.
At the 52nd minute, the Bears scored their first try of the second half. California's conversion was good putting the Bears within five points. BYU rallied back with a try from Tua Laei. Whiting's conversion was no good, but the Cougars kept the lead.
Despite missing a penalty kick at the 64-minute mark, California's kicking kept the Cougars pinned on their own side of the field. Winning the lineouts paid off for the Bears giving them the momentum they needed to finish with the win.
"Our boys were tired at unfortunate times," said BYU flanker Ara Elkington of the momentum shift in California's favor. "Cal wanted it and took back the momentum. We mentally handicapped ourselves."
California's persistence paid off with 21 unanswered points giving it a 40-29 insurmountable lead with few minutes left in the game.
"We'll take what happened today and learn from it," Smyth said of the loss to California. "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. We're disappointed but not devastated. Our rivalry with Cal is the result of both teams doing to their best to play great rugby."
1. Zane Mendenhall
2. Alex Vorster
3. Ricky Tuihalangingie
4. Matt Jensen
5. Jonny Layne
6. Jackson Kaka
7. Ara Elkington (6', 70' Sam Merrill)
8. Joe Pikula
9. Luke Mocke
10. Calvin Whiting
11. Joshua Anderson
12. Zach Webber
13. Joshua Whippy
14. Kevin Schofield (9' Ryan Blaser)
15. Tua Laei
13' California 5
20' Zach Webber 5, Calvin Whiting 2
25' Ara Elkington 5, Calvin Whiting 2
29' California 5, 2
Half-time BYU 14 Cal 12
42' Whiting penalty kick no good
44' Ryan Blaser 5, Whiting 2
49' Whiting penalty kick 3
52' California 5, 2
54' Tua Laei 5
64' California penalty kick no good
69' California 5, 2
72' California 5, 2
76' California 5, 2
Final BYU 29-40