With first place in the Division I college rugby rankings on the line, the top ranked BYU Cougars hosted the 4th ranked Saint Mary's Gaels. Just a couple of weeks ago the Cougars walked onto the Gaels home field and stole a win 32-28. Saint Mary's was out for revenge for not only last months game, but were trying to keep BYU from winning 3 of the last 4 in the series.
The Cougars started off the game with a quick penalty giving Saint Mary's a penalty kick only a minute and a half into the game, and quickly found themselves down 3-0. BYU would dominate the field position throughout the first half but mistake after mistake kept the momentum with Saint Mary's. More than once the Cougars looked to convert a try but failed to touch the ball to the ground before it went out of bounds or was kept up by the Gaels. After once such play the Cougars had another chance to score when the Gaels were called for a penalty giving Jonathan Linehan a penalty kick. Usually money as a kicker, Linehan just pulled the ball to the right and the Cougars were kept scoreless.
Once again a mistake put points on the board for the Gaels as a turnover led to a long run and try. With the kick conversion the Gaels went up 10-0. The Cougars tried to gain some momentum with a hard hit by Kody Thompson but he was given a yellow card for a late hit as he leveled the Gaels player shortly after the clearing kick. This would allow the Gaels to score on a penalty kick in the 17th minute. BYU would continue to attack and push the ball down the field but good tackling by the Gaels prevented points. The Gaels would gain field position and a high tackle on the Cougars gave Saint Mary's another penalty kick which gave them a 16-0 lead at the 26 minute mark. In the 28th minute Seki Kofe would steal a Gaels pass and take it back for the try and after a Linehan conversion the Cougars only trailed 16-7. BYU would use the momentum as they once again took a turnover and turned it into points in the 34th minute. The try would be scored by Joshua Whippy and Linehan would convert the kick. Neither team could convert on anything in the final minute and the halftime score was Saint Mary's 16-14.
The Cougars started the second half right were they left off in the first half as they scored on a Linehan penalty kick in the 42nd minute to take their first lead of the game. The kick looked to be wide but it hit the inside of the pole and fell in for the 17-16 lead. Just two minutes later Linehan would dive just pass the line for another Cougar try, but missed the kick. With the 22-16 lead the Cougars looked to be rolling. The teams would continue to play tough as they went back and forth before the Gaels converted on a penalty kick in the 57th minute, cutting the BYU lead to three. Two minutes later Linehan converted on another kick to build the lead back up at 25-19.
The teams both played with the determination expected in a game like this and a number of high tackles led to yellow cards and time sat out. Saint Mary's would take back the lead at 26-25 after forcing the defense back again. This would be the final points of the game for the Gaels. With a chance to take the lead Linehan missed a kick to the right. Just a few minutes later Tua Laei would take the ball and earn the try in the 70th minute. With the Linehan conversion the Cougars took the lead back for good at 32-26. Linehan would add one more kick in the 77th minute to give the Cougars the 35-26 come from behind lead.
BYU will travel to Salt Lake to take on the University of Utah on March 21st in the Wasatch Cup. The time will be announced later.