In a game defined by sloppy play, terrible weather, and many penalties, BYU Rugby pulled out a win against Cal-Poly 37-22 on Wednesday night.
BYU started the game off on the wrong foot by falling down 10-0 in the first eight minutes. This was due mostly to penalties, and poor forward play. On the next BYU possession, a great run by Josh Whippy, for the first of his two tries, put BYU on the board. Less than three minutes later, a great run by Jordan Lowry down the sideline put BYU ahead for good. Whippy scored his second try two minutes later to go up 19-10. Cal-Poly tried to keep it close scoring to bring it to 19-15, but Johnny Linehan caught a quick lineout and out raced the defense to the goal line. Linehan also had a very good day kicking the ball making two penalty kicks and was 3 for 5 on conversion kicks. BYU and Cal-Poly traded tries early in the second half, and Linehan kicked both of his penalty kicks after that to complete the scoring.
The biggest story line of this game, besides a terrible storm blowing in and turning the field into a soupy mess, was how often the BYU forwards were pushed backwards in scrum situations. Almost every time there was a scrum, BYU was pushed backwards, many times Cal-Poly would use the push to advance the ball while still in the scrum. BYU's poor forward play was also evident in the lineouts. It seemed almost every time BYU was throwing in, the hooker did not throw it straight, which is a penalty. The play of the forward pack is something the team will have to figure out if they want to compete for another national championship.
On the positive side, BYU's defensive line was very solid. They were constantly bringing pressure which forced penalties and turnovers by Cal-Poly. This lead to some scores and snuffed out multiple scoring opportunities for Cal-Poly. The pack did play very well offensively, actually keeping possession many times by just keeping the ball in their hands and going to ground during the wet conditions.
The kicking game by Linehan and Luke Mocke was fantastic. Linehan not only scored with his foot, but also gave BYU great field position multiple times off penalty kicks. Mocke used box kicks to move the ball and keep Cal-Poly on their toes. This, along with the creative running the other backs showed, shows why BYU will be tough to beat if the forward play improves.
BYU next hosts San Francisco Golden Gate on Saturday, March 29th at 1pm MDT. You can catch the game at South Field or on the teams Youtube page.