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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. 

Playing championship rugby a long way from home: Get to know BYU's Alex Vorster

A long way from where he was born and raised, Brigham Young University hooker Alex Vorster has overcome multiple life-changing events to get to where he's at now: playing a critical role in BYU's championship rugby team.

"There are a lot of differences living here," said Vorster of his transition from Durban, South Africa where he was born and raised to Provo, Utah. "It's not as humid and hot in Provo as it is in Durban. It's family-oriented here and the importance of religion is intense. I've been able to do well thanks to how accomadating people are here."

Vorster, a 20-year-old sophomore studying economics, is no stranger to change and credits the lessons he's learned from his parents as well as the friendly culture of the BYU community to helping him get to where he is today in life. He also acknowledges the support his sponsor family in Utah has given him by treating him as their own. 

While growing up in South Africa more than 10,000 miles away, Vorster experienced different life-changing events. Vorster's father remarried when Vorster was about five years of age in which he gained two half-brothers from his father's new marriage. When Vorster was 18-years-old, his mother passed away.

"Although my parents weren't together, they taught me to be humble," Vorster said of the teachings of his parents. "Whenever they saw me becoming a little boastful, my parents have always helped me know I stand. They always reminded me."

Learning to adjust to different situations and environments didn't stop when Vorster moved to BYU. Vorster, who is not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, faced more learning curves from understanding BYU's unique culture to taking religion courses.

No. 1 BYU earns ticket to the 2016 Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Final after defeating Arkansas State on April 23, 2016

Provo, UT- Continuing its win streak, the no. 1 Brigham Young University rugby team defeated the Arkansas State Red Wolves in the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Semifinals 68-20 at South Field on Saturday, April 23, 2016. The convincing win qualifies the Cougars for the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Final on Saturday, May 7.

"We expected Arkansas State to play hard and hustle the whole game," said BYU rugby head coach David Smyth referring to last matchup between BYU and A-State in the 2012 national championship where BYU won by seven points. "We knew what was on the line and we had to stay focused after our last match against Arkansas State. The boys remembered what we worked on in practice and it paid off."

Twin brothers, center Joshua and flyhalf Jared Whippy, added the first 14 points for BYU thanks to Joshua's two tries and Jared's two conversions in the first 15 minutes of the match. However, Arkansas State refused to remain scoreless and found the tryline at the 18-minute mark changing the score to 14-5 in BYU's favor.

Then, in the 23rd minute, Jared Whippy completed a penalty kick giving the Cougars another three points. The Red Wolves answered back with a penalty kick of their own in the 30th minute. Arkansas State was held scoreless in the remaining 10 minutes of the first half as BYU's prop Zane Mendenhall and Josh Anderson, a junior wing, added tries of their own giving the Cougars a 27-8 lead at half. Despite the double-digit lead, the Cougars refused to back down in the second half.

"The coaches reminded us what we were working towards and how we need to keep pusing ourselves," said Jared Whippy of his team's mentality going into the second half.

Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Semifinals: No. 1 BYU Cougars to play Arkansas State at South Field this Saturday

Provo, UT- The undefeated Brigham Young University rugby team (21-0) returns to South Field to play Arkansas State in the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Semifinal this Saturday, April 23, 2016, at 1 p.m. MT.

"Our team has continued to work hard carrying the momentum from the regular season to the playoffs this year," said BYU rugby head coach David Smyth of BYU's performance this season. "We need to continue to stay disciplined all 80-minutes of the game and keep up our intensity. Arkansas State will play their best and will bring it on Saturday."

The Arkansas State Red Wolves has a history of being a formidable opponent on the rugby pitch. In 2012 national championship game, the Cougars and Red Wolves battled it out resulting in a gritty final score of 49-42 in favor of BYU. Arkansas State has produced several All-Americans as well as USA 7s representatives.

"Sticking to the game plan will be key in winning this weekend's game," said BYU no. 8 Joe Pikula who scored a try in last week's playoff game against Dartmouth. "I have full confidence in my team. Executing what the coaches have worked with us on in practice has paid off on the field."

In the 75-15 victory over Dartmouth, multiple Cougars added points to the final tally including Tua Laei, Josh Anderson, Jared Whippy, Sialao Mobley, Matt Jensen and Kevin Schofield. While the Cougars have won several games this season by double digits, the Cougars have demonstrated tough forward play. Fans can expect to see BYU battle it out in the scrums and lineouts throughout the course of Saturday's match.

"This season's forward pack has a lot of experience," said BYU forwards coach Wayne Tarawhiti. "They've worked really hard and our record shows. We're excited to play Arkansas State. We're ready to play and we know they will be ready as well."

No. 1 BYU advances to Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Semifinal after defeating Dartmouth 75-15 on April 16, 2016

Thanks to a well-rounded offensive attack, the no. 1 Brigham Young University rugby teams advances to the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Semifinals after defeating Dartmouth 75-15 at Dartmouth on Saturday, April 16, 2016.

"Hats off to our boys for continuing play hard even on the road," said BYU rugby head coach David Smyth of his team's win over Dartmouth. "Many of our players stepped up and performed when called upon. We have to keep winning to play another week and that's what they did today."

BYU winger Kevin Schofield put the first five points on the score board with a try in the 5th minute giving the Cougars a 5-0 lead. The Cougars added additional points to the board thanks to two tries from Tua Laei and one a piece from Jared Whippy and Josh Anderson plus two good conversions until the 38th minute when a Dartmouth interception resulted in a try. Dartmouth's conversion was successful changing the score to 34-7 before half-time.

After going into half-time down 34-7, Dartmouth made a penalty kick closing the gap to 34-10 with the Cougars still in the lead.

"The coaches told us to play our hardest," said BYU scrumhalf Luke Mocke. "They reminded us what we're playing for which helped come out even harder in the second half."

Three minutes later at the 44-minute mark, no. 8 Joe Pikula rumbled in the try line giving BYU another five points. The conversion was successful increasing BYU's lead to 41-10.

BYU lock Matt Jensen found the try line in the 53rd minute. BYU scored more tries between the 56-minute mark and 79-minute mark thanks to Jared Whippy, Laei, Anderson and Sialao Mobley. While only two of the conversions between the 23-minute stretch were completed, BYU increased its lead to 75-10.

Dartmouth wasn't done for the day. The opposing team scored another try at the end of the match making the score 75-15 still in BYU's favor.

BYU heads to play Dartmouth for second round of Penn Mutual Varsity Cup

Following its 113-8 win over Arizona State University in the first round of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup playoffs, the no. 1 Brigham Young University rugby team (20-0) will head east to play Dartmouth for the second round on Saturday, April 16, 2016.

"We know Dartmouth is working hard in preparation for this weekend's game," said BYU rugby head coach David Smyth. "They'll be ready to play. We have to stay focused against Dartmouth and stick to our game plan."

Dartmouth, who defeated Penn State 30-25 in the first round, is known for its rich rugby history that can be traced back to the late 1800's. A dominant force in Ivy League rugby play, Dartmouth has produced several standouts and tours internationally.

"They're experienced as a program and have had the chance to see different styles of play," said BYU rugby team captain Luke Mocke. "I know that sticking to the game plan our coaches have created will be the difference maker in the game. We've seen it work this entire season."

The defending Varsity Cup national champions, BYU completed its second consecutive undefeated regular season and has not lost a match since February 2014. Like Mocke pointed out, the team's game plan has paid off with convincing wins over strong teams like St. Mary's and Central Washington. The Cougars are a tough team to defend due their multiple scoring options.

"Our team does a great job of passing well and communicating which has allowed different players of different positions to score," said junior lock Matt Jensen who has found the tryline many times during the 2016 regular season. "It doesn't matter if they're a back or a forward, all of my teammates have the ability to put points on the scoreboard."

About the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup:

The Varsity Cup is America’s top collegiate postseason championship.

BYU (19-0) opens Varsity Cup playoffs against ASU in Arizona on Saturday, April 9

The no. 1 Brigham Young University rugby team (19-0) will travel to play the Arizona State Sun Devils for the first round of the Varsity Cup playoffs in Mesa Saturday, April 9, 7 p.m. BYU's regular season accomplishments are the result of well-coached players who have executed on the pitch.

"Many players stepped up to the challenge this season and we will need them to do it again against ASU," said BYU rugby head coach David Smyth of BYU's undefeated record. "We were able to develop more players this year and those who received those opportunities played well."

A few of the players mentioned by Smyth who played well this season include Matt Jensen, Jackson Kaka, Calvin Whiting, Kingston Matua and Kevin Schofield. Jensen, a junior lock who has found the tryline several times during the regular season, credits much of the team's success to consistent play and effective coaching.

"I've been a creature of opportunity," Jensen said of being able to make plays on the rugby pitch. "Most of my tries have been set up by the team. The whole team across the board has been solid. They're consistent. No one is selfish as we've been spreading the ball out."

BYU's expectations to play well and win the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup is due in part to BYU's five national championships with four of those championships being consecutive wins. While the Cougars have not lost a game since February 2014, they do not appear to be letting up. The team's ability to stay focused and play hard each game has been an accomplishment on its own.

"This year, as a team, we have worked on sticking to what we worked on in practice," said no. 8 Joe Pikula. "We've focused on executing what we worked on in practice. We've performed well against top competition like St. Mary's and Central Washington. I think we've been able to outperform our own expectations."

BYU defeats Utah 49-12 for Wasatch Cup on Friday, April 1

Provo, UT- The undefeated Brigham Young University rugby team (19-0) defended the Wasatch Cup once again with a 49-12 victory over University of Utah at South Field on Friday, April 1, 2016.

"Hats off to Utah in working to keep the same intensity the full game," said BYU rugby head coach David Smyth of BYU's last regular season home game. "We were able to execute in our set pieces and played hard to beat Utah. We got on the board first and that set the tone for the win."

Within the first three minutes of the game, BYU prop Ricky Tuihalangingie broke through Utah's line for the first try of the night. Sophomore Calvin Whiting's completed conversion gave the Cougars a fast 7-0 lead over the Utes.

At the 16th minute, Whiting scored his first try of the night and added another conversion giving BYU a 14-0 lead. Five minutes later, the Cougars took advantage of stolen lineout leading to a try from sophomore winger Kevin Schofield. Whiting nailed his third conversion of the night putting the Cougars up 21-0.

Utah had its first chance to put points on the board with a penalty kick not long after Schofield's try but missed.

At the 32nd minute mark, BYU took advantage of Utah's thinning backline resulting in a try from fullback Ryan Blaser. Whiting added another two points putting the Cougars up 28-0.

Determined not to be held scoreless going into half-time, Utah's hooker scored at try at the 39-minute mark. Utah-transfer Josh Webber missed the conversion ending the first half with the Cougars up 28-5.

"We knew we had to keep attacking," said team captain and junior flyhalf Jared Whippy of BYU's 23-point lead going into half-time. "We did what the coaches taught us and remembered what we worked on in practice. Doing so led to other opportunities to score."

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