Alex Goff in his GoffonRugby Column lays out his predictions for the D1-A semis.
I was asked recently whether I thought Life could beat BYU in Marietta. IN truth, of course, I don’t know what will happen, but I was proud of my answer: BYU will win, I said, but they will play their toughest game of the season.
I guess that’s it. I don’t see the power BYU has up front being overwhelmed. I don’t see the unity of their backline being disrupted by the Life’s defense. I haven’t seen them thrown yet. They won’t be thrown this time.
But that’s not to say it won’t be hard. Life’s forwards are as physical as anybody’s. Their defense is very sound. They don’t get flustered, either. And, they can score tries.
In addition, as pointed out astutely by Bruce McLane in the latest RuggaMatrix America podcast, Life’s field in Marietta, Ga. is very difficult to kick in. The perspective behind the posts is all wrong, so if you’ve never kicked for goal there, which is the case for BYU’s Shaun Davies, then you could be in for a rough day.
Joe Cowley, for his part, kicks there all the time and is one of the best points machines in college rugby.
And while BYU's pack is as imposing as anyone's, Life's front row has been working regularly with Life Super League coach James Isaacson, developing aculture within that group that should help them compete.
Add to that the weather. It can get very hot and very humid in Georgia. BYU is used to hot – up there in the Wasatch Mountains there’s precious little atmosphere between forehead and sun – but they are not used to humid. In fact, quite the contrary, as the weather in Utah is usually very dry.
But that won’t be an enormous factor this weekend. Temperatures are not expected to get higher that 80 degrees, and the humidity will stay low.
Even so, I’d expect BYU to score their lowest points output of the season (except for their game with Old Puget Sound Beach), and I expect them to give up possibly their highest number of points this season. But they will still win. 29-26 is still a victory.
I have already written about the mild case of unfinished business going around the St. Mary’s camp. Yes the Gaels want to beat Arkansas State badly (in both senses of the word). I think they will.
I’ve spent some time watching both St. Mary’s and Arkansas State, trying to imagine the two teams playing each other, their styles seem so at odds.
St. Mary’sseems to play the game at all angles, moving here, swerving there, hitting the rucks this way, then that way. ASU is all right angles – upright, or straight across. ASU looks bigger, stronger, more imposing (maybe it’s just those white shorts …), but St. Mary’s has a kind of free-flowing unity that has worked very well for them so far.
The Redwolves will, and should, challenge St. Mary’s face-to-face and toe-to-toe. They should attempt to knock back the Gaels physically, and then claim the tries among the wreckage. I just don’t think they will succeed. I don’t think the Gaels can be broken mentally.
So I’m picking BYU over Life in a close one. And I’m picking St. Mary’s over Arkansas State in a close one. I could be wrong on both, but there it is.