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Central Wash Still #1 in West

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Central Wash Still #1 in West

Halahuni scored three tries against BYU. (Photo courtesy USA Rugby/Quick Photography)

Despite the score, a very good game occurred between Central Washington and BYU on Saturday. The pair are inarguably the two best DI teams that are competing in-season in the West right now, and the friendly offered insight into their progress as they build toward the DI Elite championship in the spring.

The Wildcats proved more clinical in the 40-17 win, but that point differential wasn’t always so comfortable.

“The match itself was closer than the score indicated,” Central Washington coach Mel Denham confirmed. “We have been spending a lot of time this year with our decision-making, and being more effective when there are attacking and scoring opportunities in front of us. While the match itself was head-to-head with back-and-forth possession and high defensive pressure from both teams, we were able to capitalize on the opportunities in front of us and execute, which led to more tries at the end of 80 minutes.”

BYU coach Tom Waqa backed up Denham’s assessment and was displeased with the amount of opportunity that his team provided the hosts.

“Central Washington played outstanding rugby,” Waqa praised. “They were more physical around the breakdowns and had an edge in the scrum. That created problems for us, especially with their wings and fullback. Most of those tries on the wings were result of defensive errors, and there’s no excuse for that. It’s unacceptable by BYU’s standard and needs to be fixed ASAP. If we need to change personnel on the starting lineup, then we will do it. We will all be held accountable – coaches and players, too.”

Central Washington’s Mele Halahuni was particularly devastating with ball in hand. She has the power for prop and center – two positions into which she has rotated – but has the strength to finis out wide. Halahuni scored the opening try off a Jenny Johnson offload, and followed with two scores in the second half.

“During the game, our team did pretty well at recognizing the open space on the field and taking advantage of it,” Halahuni explained. “Throughout the game we realized our wide attack was working well so we did our best to get it out wide as much as possible.”

Central Washington took a 15-point lead before the first quarter ended, sending prop Angela Ve’evalu through a driving lineout into the try zone, as well as fullback Cassidy Meyers for the first of her two scores.

“Meyers stood out this weekend with a class performance, finding work for herself around the field, screaming through even the smallest gaps,” Denham said. “Junior lock Carrie Vaillancourt had a great performance Saturday, doing the dirty work around the field that often goes unnoticed.”

BYU started to find success through its back three as well, as wing Jennie Lewis skirted through for a score, and fullback Ali Smith dotted down before the break. Central Washington wing and Canadian freshman Mckenzie Pusch split up the scores with a try of her own, giving her side a 20-10 lead into halftime.

Halahuni dotted down her second try before BYU’s Lindsay Sheridan scored, and Jessie Beck slotted the only conversion on the day. The Cougars trailed 25-17, but that was the last of the visitors’ scoring. Meyers, Johnson, and Halahuni tacked on tries for the 40-17 win.

Overall, Central Washington was a better team on the day,” Waqa said. “It was good for us, a humbling experience. It is a friendly game, and we expect them back in Provo in March 2016, so we look forward to that.”

“It's always good for us to play high-level matches like this one,” Halahuni added. “BYU is a very tough and physical team, so it definitely showed us what we did well and what we need to work on. Quality games against teams like BYU, Norwich, and Quinnipiac are what help us get ready for the spring championships.”

Central Washington will play a league match against Oregon State this weekend, and then wrap up its fall campaign against Oregon and Western Oregon on Nov. 7. BYU has two more weekends of play as well: league match against Colorado State this weekend, and then a friendly against women's club Vipers the following weekend.