Cal and BYU played yet another collegiate final of the ages, a game that was in doubt until the end, not always pretty, but always physical, and always compelling.
Before over 10,000 paying fans, mostly likely the biggest crowd to see a non-international rugby match in modern American rugby history, Cal won 21-14, and broke BYU hearts.
“It’s very difficult to take,” said BYU flyhalf Dylan Lubbe. “We’ve come a long way this year, but the whole game just turned on some mistakes. We made mistakes in their 22 and it cost us the game.”
“It was a heavyweight match,” added Cal flanker and captain Derek Asbun. “Every inch of the field was contested for all 80 minutes. And an amazing battle. We had some great performances and a full team effort, and we needed it. Jason Law subbing in, Drew Hyjer stealing lineout balls. James Bailes playing great, as he has all year. Just an amazing game.”
BYU captain Ryan Round was physically and emotionally beat up. Shaking his head as he removed the tape from his wrists.
“I definitely believe in our team; we put points on the board all year, but we made too many mistakes and they took advantage of it,” he said. “Too many set-piece errors. They defended well, and it was just a close game, a great game.”
The coaches, too, understood how tight it was.
“It’s tough and it’s a little bit disappointing,” said BYU Head Coach David Smyth. “Cal came in with a good game plan and obviously didn’t want us to get much ball. They kept it tight, went north and south, got numbers into the rucks, and got across the gain line every time. When we did get the ball I thought we were a wee bit too impatient.
“But all-in-all, the effort was there. The kids were magnificent. It’s just one of those games that’s a battle. You hope you do enough to win it. We didn’t, they did.”
Cal Head Coach Jack Clark had similar thoughts.
“We took away a couple of balls; we poached a few lineouts, and that really helped us,” Clark told RUGBYMag.com . “We got a big tighthead at the end of the game. But we were less than perfect. We missed touch on a penalty and had a chance to get down in [their] half with two, three minutes left and just sit on the ball. Then they run out of bounds, they give us the beachhead anyway and we miss the lineout.
“So it was one of those games where we were just not perfect, and we played our guts out is what we did. They weren’t perfect and they played their guts out. Somebody had to win, and I’m grateful it was us.”