COUGARS HAND CATS THEIR FIRST LOSS
#8 byu 38
#13 Arizona 13
Jack Brown and the Wildcats will look to regroup over the bye week. (Photo credits: Linda Brothers)
Feb 13- In a rematch of last year's D1A first round, Arizona took on BYU in a key early-season contest at Sitton Field on Saturday.
While last year's meeting went the way of the Cougars early and often, it was the Wildcats this time that got on the front foot early. Some dogged defense and a BYU penalty gave the Wildcats their first lead at 3-0 on a Matteo Berenger penalty. The Arizona lineout, led by Captain James Rivers, then produced a great attacking opportunity, with Scrumhalf George O'Brien breaking a tackle and dotting down for the early 8-0 lead. BYU would respond, taking advantage of an Arizona penalty this time and using their own lineout effectively, scoring a try in the corner which they converted to make it 8-7 with 15 minutes left in the half. Another shot at goal from Berenger soon after made it 11-7 with the first half nearly over.
From here, a major sequence would impact the game, with BYU picking up a red card on a high tackle with head contact, only to have O'Brien pick up a yellow card for soon after, reversing the penalty and giving BYU an attacking opportunity on the final play of the first half. BYU's try was a key play, making it 14-11 at the break. "Big one before half. Completely changed the game" said Director of Rugby Sean Duffy.
In the second half, it was the Cougars that would get ahead early, breaking through for an early try to make it 19-11 45 minutes in. The BYU pressure in the 14 v 14 stretch of the game was massive, forcing a mistake that led to another BYU try to make it 26-11 before getting back to 15 v 14. Back at full-strength, Arizona began to climb back in to the match, with the Wildcats' defense firming up again and the center duo of Mattox King and EJ Freeman combining for a try in the 53rd minute to make it 26-18. This was as close as the Cats would come, as BYU scored in the 60th minute off of a strong lineout to make it 33-18. A strong attacking passage of play would get the Wildcats into the Cougars' 22 multiple times in the second half, but the opportunities were not capitalized on and it was the visitors who would emerge with a 38-18 win, handing Arizona their first loss.
"First off credit to BYU, they are a good side, always a challenge and it was the type of game we want to test ourselves" said Duffy. "I am incredibly proud of the way our guys battled. They were physical, smart, and played together as a unit. Now it's about cutting down on mistakes, tweaking some things as we always do, and approaching our individual and team development with the right mindset. We have great leadership between James and the other guys, we are in good hands and we'll continue to work towards being our best."
Arizona 2nd XV got their second victory of the year, defeating Tucson Magpies in a friendly 48-32. Both teams will have a bye next week before traveling to Cal February 25th.
SCORING vs BYU
Tries: O'Brien, Freeman
Conversions: Berenger- 0/1, McCormick- 1/1
Penalties: Berenger: 2/2
3- Isaac Morrill
8- Jack Bresland
11- Antonio Gonzalez
20- Charlie Green
22- Charley Redknapp