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Rugby: BYU completes national championship three-peat with win over Cal

By Christopher Kamrani

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published May 03 2014 04:19PM
Updated May 3, 2014 09:22PM

Sandy • Huddled around its third consecutive national championship cup, the Brigham Young University men’s rugby team continued to rattle off chants for various accomplishments, players and coaches.

When you’ve won three straight national crowns, you can just keep the party going.

That’s what BYU did Saturday afternoon at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy. Playing for their third straight title and facing longtime rival California, the Cougars ensured another title wouldn’t be as dramatic as last year’s last-second achievement.

The Cougars jumped out to a lead, protected it, never trailed and soundly beat the Golden Bears 43-33 in the Varsity Cup national collegiate championship Saturday. Only a Cal score in the dwindling moments of the match upped the final score to a 10-point differential.

"Our goal at the start of the year was to win a Varsity Cup national championship, and our boys did it, so that’s where we feel we’re at," said BYU coach David Smyth afterward.

The feeling is starting to become awfully familiar for the Cougars.

After defeating Arkansas State 49-42 in 2012 and slipping by the Golden Bears 27-24 at the death in 2013, Saturday’s title match was a slow-and-steady diet of BYU executing offensively and causing timely turnovers.

The Cougars jumped out to a 22-7 lead early in the first half, only to have their lead trimmed to eight on a late score by Cal.

That’s when Paul Lisake wanted to see what his team was made of.

The Golden Bears scored first in the second half to inch closer to BYU at 22-19, but Lisake saw a chance for a response — and then some.

"They scored, and we answered right back," Lisake said. "And then just staying on the pedal from there on out. I think that was the key, not giving up, because Cal-Berkeley, they’re an 80-minute team."

On Saturday, BYU was the better 80-minute team.

When Josh Whippy punctuated the title match with a late score, the BYU-blue-heavy crowd rose to its feet as he gripped the ball and pointed to the crowd in celebration as the team took a 43-26 lead late.

Having met seven previous times with a national title on the line, the Cougars ran away from the Golden Bears, making the No. 8 meeting great for BYU. When time officially ticked off, signaling another national championship for the Provo-based program, players and coaches alike sprinted to all ends of the stadium to celebrate with one another and the fans packed inside Rio Tinto Stadium.

"There’s a tradition here," said Kyle Sumsion. "That’s what we play for."

Twitter: @chriskamrani

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