Provo, UT–In front of a capacity crowd at South Field, the BYU held on to the Wasatch Cup by beating the Utah 38-22.
With the score 16-15 narrowly in favor of the Cougars at halftime, BYU would ride three second-half tries and the kicking of scrumhalf Shaun Davies to pull away from the Utes.
The physical affair was typical of past Wasatch Cup matches, as Utah took a 15-13 in the 35th minute behind the barging try of All-American prop Nick Mostyn from short range.
The Cougars looked to be in control of the match early on, however, as they moved to a 13-0 lead behind two penalties from Davies and a try from center Paul Lasike.
The Utes’ first chances to score came in the fifth and seventh minutes when Utah flyhalf Danny Christensen looked to slot a pair of penalty kicks. Both missed. Utah finally got on the board when No. 8 Les Soloai took a wide pass and ran10 meters for the Utes’ opening score.
A missed conversion, which was unfortunately for the Utes a theme in the match, left the scoreline 13-5 in favor of BYU.
The ensuing restart saw Cougars’ flanker Kyle Sumsion regather the kick, and BYU would look to pressurize the Utes.
After a series of phases and exchanges inside the Utah half, an errant pass from Lasike gave Utah wing Winston Harris the opportune intercept and 60-meter race for the second Utah try in the 27th minute.
The Utes moved ahead with Mostyn’s try, but the conversion was missed.
A late penalty from Utah in the first half’s injury-time gave Davies his third shot at goal. The kick good, BYU inched back into the lead 16-15 a the break.
The three first-half Utah tries were the most BYU has given up in a game this year. It also marks the first time this season BYU has scored fewer tries than its opponent in the first half.
“We didn’t have the greatest first half,” said BYU captain Ryan Roundy, “But that’s what you get in these Wasatch Cup games. You never know what’s going to happen, but we fought hard and were still in the lead at half time. We were able to dig this one out in the second half. “
The Cougars started the second half with an intercept, as Utah’s Harris was picked off by BYU wing Malosi Te’o who sped over 80 meters for the try.
Davies missed the wide-angle conversion, and BYU led 21-15 in the 43rd minute.
A professional foul from Utah wing Tonata Lauti resulted in a yellow card and Davies’ fourth penalty goal attempt right in front of the posts. He didn’t miss, and BYU moved ahead 24-15.
Utah used the card to motivate them and eventually put pressure on BYU deep inside their 22 meter line.
With repeated BYU penalties directly in front of the posts, the Utes opted to scrum, and, eventually, a five-meter scrum was pushed over a collapsing BYU, giving the Utes a penalty try at the hand of referee Paul Bretz in the 53rd minute.
An easy conversion by Utah’s Christensen brought the Utes closer: 24-15.
With Lauti’s return and Utes within striking distance, the Utah fans on hand saw new life in their team. But after contested exchanges, BYU was awarded a penalty and would drive a kick deep into Utah territory for touch and an ensuing Cougar lineout.
The lineout throw that wasn’t straight ruined the strong BYU scoring opportunity. Utah opted to scrum from the turnover possession, but the Cougars pushed back the Utes, and captain No. 8 Ryan Roundy would barrel ahead from five meters for the try in the 58th minute.
“That was one of the key moments of this game,” said BYU forwards coach Wayne Tarawhiti. “We missed the first chance to pull ahead with the lineout, but the guys didn’t let up and got the scrum pushed back. It was huge.”
Davies converted the Roundy try, and the Cougars looked to be tenuously in control, 31-22, with the final quarter of play ahead.
In the 63rd-minute BYU moved well ahead and out of reach of their rivals when freshman fullback Tua Laei took an offload from wing Will Taylor and ran 30 meters for the final score of the game. Another conversion from Davies rounded out the score 38-22.
“This was exactly the game that we expected,” said BYU head coach David Smyth. “Utah came ready today, as they always do. They were physical at the break down and they took the opportunities that came their way well. This was a classic Wasatch Cup and one that we feel pleased to have won whether by one point or sixteen.”
BYU now moves to 6-0 in the Western Conference and in control of their playoff destiny with one final conference and regular season match against Colorado University on April 21st on South Field.
Today’s Wasatch Cup victory ensured the Cougars of their 2012 post-season berth and a win against the Buffaloes in two weeks will give BYU their second consecutive Western Conference championship and a quarterfinal playoff berth at home on May 5th.
For more news and information on the Cougars and their Wasatch Cup victory go to Facebook and Twitter.
Tries: Lasike 19′; Te’o 43′; Roundy 58′; Laei 63′
Conversions: Davies 3/4 (19′, 58′, 63′)
Penalties: Davies 4/4 (2′, 12′, 40′, 49′)
Tries: Soloai 23′; Harris 27′; Mostyn 35′; Utah Penalty Try 53′
Conversions: Christensen 1/4 (53′)
Penalties: Christensen 0/2
Referee: Paul Bretz
Official Attendance: 3,833