In front of a robust crowd BYU defeated the University of Arizona 80-8 Friday night in Provo, Utah.
The game was competitive during long periods, especially in the first 20 minutes, but in the end BYU’s powerful scrum and astonishing quick-strike ability logged 12 tries.
Scrumhalf Shaun Davies, fully back from a back injury, scored 25 points with a try and ten conversions, most kicked with a thick bandage obscuring his right eye.
Arizona was impressive in the early going, competing hard at the breakdown and forcing several turnovers that didn’t set well with the BYU coaches, who expected the Cougars to protect the ball better.
Arizona got a penalty from flyhalf Trent Fischer early on, and continued to defend well. Hooker Damian Vaughn looked impressive with the ball in hand – this was his 5th game of rugby – but it seemed only a matter of time that BYU would explode.
Ryan Roundy scored BYU’s first try off an eightman pick. But still it was only 5-3 after 20 minutes.
“We had only the one training this past week,” said Davies. “We’d had a long road trip and we got a little rest. That was good but I think that had something to do with our slow start.”
The Cougars did start putting pressure on the Wildcats, forcing Fischer and Jack Arnold to really work hard to clear the pressure with their kicking. It was a kick that eventually led to the next BYU try – fullback Fa’a Laei starting a counter that led to a try from the onrushing Jordan Lowry. Dylan Lubbe scored a pretty try soon thereafter, drawing his man, passing to inside center Hoseki Kofe. Kofe got all sorts of attention, and he simply passed back inside to Lubbe, who went the rest of the way.
“Playing BYU is like playing with a razorblade,” said Arizona coach Tyson Swetnam. “You make a mistake, and you can get cut deep. They did that a lot.”
Arizona battled on and really caused issues for BYU in the breakdown. As a result, the Cougars adjusted their game plan – passing out of the tackle more and avoiding rucks at times. It worked well, because the BYU forwards are imposing and their backs were coming together as the game wore on.
“We stayed pretty simple,” said BYU Head Coach David Smyth. “If you can do it the simple way, all the better.”
And that they did, bursting onto the ball, showing an excellent scrum, and being just flat hard to tackle. Arizona, for their part, looked a team that executes well in training, but the backline was just a little hesitant in live action. As a result, many leading passes didn’t go to hand. Later on, those passes would go behind as the outside backs remembered to run onto the ball.
For the Wildcats, the big positive was a try scored right at the end. They didn’t back down, and with scrumhalf Kyle Thompson scrapping and battling whenever he could, and No. 8 Nic Svob leading the forwards with his work rate, they got a big charge from Vaughn, and capped the movement off with an odd-man rush on the left wing, where flanker Craig Samoy did the honors.
But it was BYU’s night.
“For the first 20 minutes we were average at best,” said Smyth of BYU’s performance. “Arizona did quite well and we were flat. But then I think we go into our groove a little bit and we were able to move the ball into space. When we try to keep it simple, but deadly, things get better for us.”
“We can run into the trap of thinking we should score a try every time we have the ball,” said Roundy, who was a terror with the ball, but also perhaps tried to do too much. “I feel we have the kinds of players who can score every time. But sometimes we have to realize it’s time to set it up and take our time. We know against some other opponents, like next week, we will need to do that.”
BYU plays Utah next week in a highly-anticipated match.
BYU’s halfback pairing of Davies and Lubbe are back together and working well – in this their 5th year together. Meanwhile the center pairing of Paul Lasike and Hoseki Kofe is unmatched in the college game this year. Kofe, at inside center, has upped his passing game and helped set up Lasike for three tries.
Tries: Roundy 2, Lowry, Lubbe, Lasike 3, Laei, Davies, TJ Allred, Taylor, Kofe
Convs: Davies 10