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BYU Holds Off Saint Mary's

College Men

BYU Holds Off Saint Mary's

This photo is from the Saint Mary's v BYU game in February. Michael Geib photo.

BYU held on to defeat Saint Mary's 35-26 Saturday in Provo in a game where the Cougars made some key improvements from the teams' earlier meeting, and the Gaels made some key mistakes.

Right from the kickoff BYU put Saint Mary's under pressure and within two minutes had sent the ball through the hands to put Jared Whippy over for a try. The Saint Mary's tackling was left wanting on the player, and BYU ld 5-0. The Saint Mary's restart went into touch on the full, giving BYU a scrum at midfield, and from there the Cougars attacked once more. They tried to put Kevin Schofield away, but while the wing was hauled down, some patient work from the Cougars finally put hooker Alex Vorster through on a short ball, and with Calvin Whiting's conversion, BYU ld 12-0.

But slowly Saint Mary's started to get back into the game. A nifty break from flyhalf Michael McCarthy set up a penalty, which Dylan Audsley put over, and some good phase work led to another penalty against BYU and Audsley again slotted the kick. Use of the boot in the ruck led to a yellow card for Gaels No. 8 Vili Helu, but that call seemed to energize Saint Mary's more than anything.

BYU could have capitalized, but Whiting missed a long-range penalty attempt, and Tua Laei looked set up to careen down the sideline for a try, but the pass to him wasn't on-target and rolld into touch. Saint Mary's, still shorthanded, then inched closer. From a scrum inside the Gaels 22, Kevin O'Connor picked up, made some territory and then offloaded to Audsley. The fullback raced about 50 meters, and while he was stopped, the Saint Mary's support was there quickly, and after some good work from Aaron Matthews, put wing Cory Kroeger through at the corner. Audsley hit the difficult conversion and Saint Mary's led 13-12.

Helu came back on the field, happy to see his team was a +7 while he was off. BYU replied quickly, with Schofield bursting through a couple of tackles and offloading to Laei for the try. Saint Mary's argued the pass to Laei was forward, and replays indicated they at least had an argument, but it was close either way, and the try stood - BYU led 19-13. Whiting added three more before the end of halftime, but for Saint Mary's, a chance inside th BYU 22 went begging, and that was to haunt them.

In the second half, Saint Mary's, going downhill on the somewhat sloped field, pressured BYU and Audsley slotted a penalty. The fullback put another over, and then the Gaels were right on the BYU line once more with a chance to go ahead. But, after being so patient, they were impatient, lost the ball in the ruck, and BYU cleared. The kick was punted back into the BYU 22 - a kick that seemed to have little purpose to it, and one that hurt the Gaels badly. Zach Webber took the kick, skirted right, and cut through a gap in the Saint Mary's chase. The former HS All American galloped on and went about 75 meters before offloading to Kingston Matua, who finished it off. From on the BYU tryline to under their own posts in a matter of seconds, Saint Mary's were left shaking their heads.

BYU, for their part, had shown their quick-strike ability, and with Whiting's conversion, led 29-19. Whiting would add another penalty for a 32-19 lad.

Saint Mary's had enjoyed a couple of prime attacking lineout opportunities, only to get a not-straight call or lose the ball somehow. Finally, though, the lineout did the job as they mauled the ball down to the BYU line, and scrumhalf Holden Yungert dove over in the corner. Audsley put over the difficult conversion again, and it was 32-26.

But a break from the Cougars put Saint Mary's on the back foot, and the Gaels were slow to get back onside - too slow, and Whiting kicked another penalty to make it 35-26.

In the final eight minutes or so, however, Saint Mary's had ample opportunities to score. Another lineout mistake, and then losing the ball in the tackle two meters from the line left them with nothing to show for it.

At least five times, Saint Mary's had a lineout or secure possession within ten meters of the BYU tryline and failed to score, and one time gave up a try from that position. That was the difference in something of a hard-hitting classic. The two teams showed little love for each other, but a ton of respect, and BYU, led by a stalwart effort from Matt Jensen at lock and with Webber making some key players, emerged victorious.

There's a very good chance these teams will meet again in the DIA semis or final. If they do, expect another beauty.

BYU 35
Tries: Ja. Whippy, Vorster, Laei, Matua
Convs: Whiting 3
Pens: Whiting 3

Saint Mary's 26
Tries: Kroeger, Yungert
Convs: Audsley 2
Pens: Audsley 4

(Correction - this article has been corrected to credit Cory Kroeger for the try and change one detail on how Laei's try was scored.)