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BYU Holds On in Varsity Cup

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BYU Holds On in Varsity Cup

BYU somehow held on to win the Varsity Cup Final 30-27 Saturday in a wild game at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.

The Cougars never trailed, but were within a whisker of seeing it all fritter away as Cal came back from a distressing first half to put themselves in a position to win it.

In the first half, the Cougar were the better team - more ferocious in contact, smoother with their ball-handling, and quicker to the breakdown. Their only major problem, it seemed, was an inability to win their lineouts on a consistent basis.

But they did just fine in the open field. Meanwhile Cal, especially in the first half, had trouble securing the ball in contact and, when they had go-forward, produced the ball far too slowly from the rucks.

Cal opened the scoring when a lost Cal ball ended up in the hands of center Hoseki Kofe, who raced in for a try. Jonny Linehan converted that try and added a penalty after flanker Ara Elkington had stolen another Cal ball.

Cal’s Jake Anderson gave Cal their first, and only, points of the half with a penalty, but throughout the first half it was a story of Cal looking to find some space, and BYU closing down the space and jarring the ball loose. After a few close calls, BYU got their second try on a scrum move that set free wing Josh Anderson in the corner. Linehan slotted the difficult conversion to make it 17-3, and despite some promising scoring opportunities by Cal and a yellow card to prop Zane Mendenhall, BYU held on.

Cal came back into the second half determined to make their scoring opportunities count, and they used their outside support a little better. That approach got them close and a quick tap from Paul Bosco put them over. Anderson whacked over the tough conversion to make it 17-10. Then Anderson broke three tackles on his way to a try in the opposite corner to make it 17-15. We now had a ballgame.

BYU responded, and from a penalty at scrum time Linehan hit a very tough kick. And then the key play. The Cougars had the ball and were working the left side. Then the ball went out to Linehan, who popped a high kick into in-goal where sub center Jarred Whippy was there to catch and touch down. With the conversion, BYU now led 27-15.

But Cal wouldn’t go away, and a Harry Adolphus attacking kick wasn’t claimed by any BYU defenders. Nikolas Boyer recovered the ball and hooker Michael Bush, charging hard in support, picked and dove over. That made it 27-20. Linehan added another penalty, but then a superb backline counter by Cal sent Anthony Salaber in - the center was a bright spot on the Cal team all day.

So it had to come down to some drama. Up 30-27, BYU decided to go to the pick-and-go to run out the clock. The clock on the scoreboard went to 0:00, and they kicked it out to celebrate.

However, referee Kurt Weaver, who had kept a nice and clear control of the game, had informed BYU that their slow engagements in the scrum had forced him to add on time.

BYU star Kyle Sumsion later acknowledged that his players hadn’t been paying attention.

One more chance for Cal. They won the lineout, sent it wide, and saw one final pass hit the deck for a knock-on.

Cal got a big day from James Kondrat at lock and Alec Gletzer at flanker. Adolphus set up two tries, and Bush put in a lot of work. But they didn’t hold onto the ball, and with Elkington and Sumsion playing strong in the back row and Kofe and Josh Whippy hitting hard in the midfield, the Cougars won another nail biting Varsity Cup Final.


BYU 30

Tries: Kofe, Anderson 2, Ja. Wjippy

Convs: Lindehan 2

Pens: Linehan 2


Cal 27

Tries: Bosco, Anderson, Bush, A. Salaber

Convs: Anderson 2

Pens: Anderson