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Central WA 2-0 vs BYU

  • 24 Mar 2016

Central Washington try-scorer Jenny Johnson.


A bruiser of a match and potential preview of a DI Elite playoff occurred in Provo, Utah, last night. Central Washington, which is hosting the west’s half of the DI Elite playoffs, traveled to BYU for the teams’ second friendly this season. The fall match went 40-17 in the Wildcats’ favor, but the rematch was more competitive.


“We always enjoy the match between BYU, and will continue to develop our relationship with them each year,” Central Washington coach Mel Denham reported after the 12-7 win. “The high-quality competition makes both of us better. We are looking forward to hosting them next month in the DI Elite playoffs at Central, and hope to take the field against them once more this year.”


Both teams are accustomed to big scorelines, so the scoreless first half was a unique experience for both sides.


“We missed opportunities in the first half,” BYU coach Tom Waqa said. “We had the advantage in territory and possession, but we couldn’t punch it in. We had a penalty in front of the posts, and it hit the crossbar.


“We had an edge in the scrums, and I was happy how they kept composure throughout,” the coach added. “The forwards were providing quality ball to the backs, but we need to finish.”

Central Washington defended well, but struggled to get into its fast-ball offense.


“BYU’s defense was very physical at the breakdown, and they contested every possession at the tackle,” Denham explained. “They did a great job slowing down the tempo of our game. At halftime, we made some adjustments around the breakdown, and that helped secure cleaner ball and create more positive possession.”


Asinate Serevi broke the silence with the game’s first try, and Emma Leonard’s conversion afforded a 7-0 lead to Central Washington.


“Central Washington marched down to our five meter, and Nate Serevi made a nice individual effort to score,” Waqa remembered. “We’ll take that. She’s a very good player, and she’s been scoring on us every game. So that one try – that’s fine with me.”


Waqa called No. 8 Jenny Johnson’s score a “rugby IQ try.” After attempting to drive a lineout across the line, Central Washington anticipated a similar defense in the next five-meter lineout. Johnson peeled away from the forwards to score and pushed the lead to 12-0.


BYU continued to work, but Central Washington’s defense was solid.


“We have been spending time looking at the tackle this season as an area for growth, which definitely improved the effectiveness of our defense and confidence in our line speed,” Denham noted.


“Credit to Central Washington, they tackled everything that moved,” Waqa added.


In the closing minutes, BYU No. 8 Sia Skipps scored and Jessie Beck’s conversion made it 12-7.


“We kept fighting, and that try at the end of the game happened when most of our subs were in,” Waqa said. “That’s encouraging; they had big shoes to fill. They’re all athletes, and many of them have never played rugby before they started this year. We put them on the fast track and they’re performing to expectations. I’m really happy with them given the little playing time they’ve had.”


Denham used the match to experiment with a couple of position changes, while also resting a couple of typical starters.


“Yana Manoa stepped into hooker for the first time, in a very forward-physical match, which was impressive,” Denham praised. “The scrums were tough, and she flawlessly took a lead in the front row.”


Freshman Leonard from New Zealand played scrumhalf and ran great defensive lines that led to a few very nice tackles on linebreaks. Rosalind Pena moved to openside flanker and impressed with her work rate around the pitch. Freshman Meagan Curtis, who was injured last fall, got her shot in the centers and made a positive impact.


“This is a testing ground to figure out where we stand and to gauge our season,” Waqa said. “We’ve come a long way, and I feel very good going into nationals.”


Central Washington’s remaining schedule is stronger than BYU’s, with games against Lethbridge (which BYU beat last weekend 26-14) and ORSU highlighting the lineup. The DI Elite playoffs begin April 22, when BYU will play Stanford and Central Washington will play New Mexico. The winners will play Saturday in Ellensburg, Wash., for a berth to championship against the eastern victor.

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