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Saint Mary's Edges BYU in Exciting College Clash

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Saint Mary's Edges BYU in Exciting College Clash

Photo David Barpal.

Saint Mary's defeated BYU 22-19 in a thriller of a game played at the Saint Mary's ground in Moraga, Calif.

The game was back-and-forth and at times each of the teams seemed to be in control, but that control was all too fleeting.

Playing their usual fast-paced style, the Gaels ran out to a 12-0 lead. They needed to weather five minutes of BYU pressure to do it, but after finally breaking clear thanks in part to some snappy footwork from Inoke Waqavesi, the Gaels camped out in the BYU end. That pressure led to a very nice sequence of ball movement, with players such as lock/loose forward Ronan Murphy getting involved in the middle of it all, and they were over in the corner.

The Gaels went right back down and off a scrum a nice short ball right in front of the posts saw a try under the sticks. Joe Yacoubian converted and it was 12-0.

But after that BYU started to find their feet. They kicked more and might have remembered that it was their kicking game and aggressive kick-chase that had brought the Cougars back against Central Washington earlier this spring.

The Cougar forwards drove it over, and then they broke through for another, both converted by scrumhalf and Scholz Award nominee Dylan Parry. That made it 14-12 and that's how the first half ended.

In the second half BYU continued to put Saint Mary's under the cosh with good kicking for territory. But Saint Mary's doesn't really get to fazed by having to run from deep in their own territory. After working their way into the BYU end, some superb interplay between backs and forwards, with flyhalf Waqavesi, prop Payton Telea Ilalio, and wing Erich Storti  all making key plays as the Gaels scored in the corner.

That made it 17-14, but back came the Cougars, with Parry running a brilliant switch move with his brother, Wyatt Parry, who beat three defenders and raced in from 35 meters out. That made it 19-17, with the conversion attempt blocked by some big-time Saint Mary's hustle.

Once again Saint Mary's responded and a brilliant offload from Murphy helped find space on the outside and it was 22-19 Saint Mary's with 20 minutes to go.

The rest of the game was a bit of a slog, as BYU tried to find a scoring chance, and Saint Mary's defended doggedly. BYU's kicking expertise would have been helpful here, but for the most part they chose t run the ball. As that took longer and longer, the Gaels started to feel more confident about their chances, and they worked the time off the clock to hold on for the win.

For BYU, it was actually an impressive showing, and with the two teams slated for a return engagement in Provo in a week.