D1A Semifinal Preview

D1A Rugby: D1A Semifinal Preview
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Life v. BYU

The BYU Cougars will travel to Marietta, Georgia to face the Life University Running Eagles in what is shaping up to be a serious battle. BYU is looking to advance to their seventh consecutive national championship match while Life hopes to earn a spot in the final for the first time. No teams have scored more points that these two teams this season, as they have scored 1,255 points in 17 matches combined this season. To go along with the offensive circus, Life and BYU possess some of the strongest defenses in the nation and have ridden the balanced attack all the way to the semifinals.

Last week in the quarterfinals Life trounced the Rugby East #2 seed, Penn State, 75-3 in a final score that was surprising to say the least. Penn State had played strong rugby throughout the entire season and seemed ready to give Life a run for their money. After Penn State took an early 3-0 lead, Paul Bester scored one of his four tries on the day and Life never looked back. National points leader, Joseph Cowley, scored 30 points on two tries and 10 conversions.

BYU fared similarly, defeating UCLA 103-27 in a match where the Cougars scored the most points in a game through 2012 and also gave up the most points in a game. Eleven players scored tries and Shaun Davies totaled 32 points on the day with two tries and 11 conversions. The Cougars were up 33-0 and had the game largely under control before UCLA scored their first points in minute 28.

The match Saturday will be a great showcase of young rugby talent as many of these players have been All-Americans in the past and some will likely be making their first appearance on the All-American team. With such great talent on display the match is going to be played at a high level of skill and, given the stakes of the match, at an elevated level of intensity. Both Life and BYU have faced their fair share of tough opponents this season and will be ready for whatever the other has to throw at them.

The match will be webcast life at liferunningeagles.com at 1:30 PM ET. Some BYU players to watch for while you watch are: Ray Forrester, prop; Paul Lasike , center; Shaun Davies, scrumhalf; Ryan Roundy, 8-man. Notable players to watch for on Life are: Joseph Cowley, fullback, Colton Carriaga, center, Cameron Dolan, 8-man; Paul Bester, flanker.

The winner of the match will face the winner of the St. Mary’s versus Arkansas State match at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah in the D1A National Championship game on May 19, 2012.

St. Mary’s v. Arkansas State

The Arkansas State Red Wolves travel half way across the country to face the Pacific Conference Champion St. Mary’s Gaels. Arkansas State find themselves in familiar territory in the semifinal match. In 2011 the Red Wolves were defeated by BYU at Infinity Park in a wet match that was never out of reach for Arkansas State. St. Mary’s will enjoy the luxury of playing in front of their home crowd for both the quarterfinals and now the semifinals. Arkansas State, on the other hand, will have traveled to West Point, New York and now Moraga, California in two consecutive weekends. The intense travel should be no detriment to the Arkansas State fury, as St. Mary’s will be fired up and ready to go.

Paul Benade of Arkansas State in action during the College 7s Championship

Last week in the quarterfinal St. Mary’s defeated Utah 24-15 for the second time this season. The match was the second time St. Mary’s defeated the Utes at home and they did so two men down through the last ten minutes. Jordan Bouey was red-carded and Kingsley McGown was sent to the sin bin with five minutes left. Utah was down 24-8 with 25 minutes to play and at that time St. Mary’s was down one man. The Utes touched down a try after that moment, but due to the intensity of the St. Mary’s defense, were unable to score again. The Gaels will be without Bouey this weekend and will need the replacement prop to step up big time to fill his shoes.

In the Arkansas St. versus Army quarterfinal the Red Wolves jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. At one point the match stood at 19-13 but shortly after Arkansas State touched down a try to earn a lead that was insurmountable for Army. The Red Wolves played solid defense and gave Army little room to work with. The backline moved as a determined unit, and due to this intensity, were able to shut down virtually all Army backline attacks. The forward pack for Arkansas State was equally effective in making their opponent uncomfortable as they also took away time and space from Army. Offensively the Red Wolves were in great tune with each other and their ability to produce quick ball constantly put Army on their heels. That same team chemistry will be crucial for Arkansas State this weekend if they hope to defeat an equally determined St. Mary’s side.

The match will kick off at 1:00 PM PT. Some notable St. Mary’s players to watch for: Kingsley McGowan, fullback; Michael Haley, fullback; Matt Crawford, prop. Notable players to watch for on Arkansas State: Shaun Potgieter, 8-man; Zac Mizell, center; Patrick Sullivan, flyhalf.

The winner of the match will face the winner of the Life versus BYU match at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah in the D1A National Championship game on May 19, 2012.