When two talented rivals tussle in an intense back-and-forth contest, victory often comes to the side which makes the big play.
Saturday afternoon in the Wasatch Cup match between BYU and Utah rugby teams at South Field in Provo, that player turned out to be Cougar junior No. 8 Ryan Roundy.
It was Roundy who managed to emerge from a Ute scrum near the touchline and took it in for a key try that helped BYU build a lead over Utah and eventually pull away to get the 38-22 win in front of 5,000 fans.
"That was a game-turner," said Cougar head coach David Smyth. "That was a play that came down on our side and was painful for them. It helped us get the advantage."
At the time, BYU's lead had been trimmed to 24-22 after the Utes had scored a try and added the conversion.
The Cougars had pushed the ball all the way down the field, only to turn the ball over. Utah controlled the scrum deep in its own territory, but Roundy found a way to pull it free and dove across the line for the score.
It was part of an improved second-half effort for BYU after it had been too sloppy for the first 40 minutes.
"This was the type of game we expected," Smyth said. "It was tough and physical. Utah came down here and did themselves proud. Our boys answered the bell, especially when they stuck to the game plan.
"When we got loose with the ball, they were quick to capitalize and turn our mistakes into points."
The Cougars appeared to be in control after the first 15 minutes of action as a pair of penalty kicks by senior scrumhalf Shaun Davies and a try by sophomore center Paul Lasike put BYU up 13-0.
Even with that success, however, the home team didn't expect smooth sailing.
"Utah is a great team and we knew it was going to be a close game," said Lasike, who is also learning to be a running back on the Cougar football team. "They were very physical up front. We had to stick to the game plan, be patient and play our game."
The Utes were able to turn things their way by forcing BYU mistakes. The visitors tallied three straight tries — all of which were set up by Cougar errors — and edged in front.
But the Utah lead was only 15-13, due in large part to some kicking struggles for the Utes, who missed three conversions and a penalty kick in the first half.
Davies, on the other hand, was nearly perfect on the day (3-for-4 on conversions, 4-for-4 on penalty kicks). He hit his third penalty of the first period just as time expired to give the Cougars the 16-15 lead and a psychological edge heading into the break.
During the half, Smyth said the message to his players was to not try to force things as much.
"The talk was mostly about settling down," the BYU coach said. "We just needed to recycle the ball and keep our positions."
Lasike said it made a big difference that the Cougars kept their cool because it's easier to make mistake when they got frustrated.
Not surprisingly, the intensity of the game increased in the second half and it got a little chippy both on the field and on the sidelines at times in the second half.
At one point, an altercation between a Ute coach and the BYU announcer resulted in the police being called and talking to all of the parties before both were allowed to return to their respective places on the sideline.
On the field, the Cougars pulled in front on an interception by senior wing Melosi Te'o — a former football player — that he returned all the way for the try.
While that difficult conversion was the only one missed by Davies, the experienced scrumhalf added another penalty kick after a Ute yellow card to make the score 24-15.
Utah refused to quit, however, rallying with a try of its own off a scrum deep in BYU territory to cut the Cougar lead to just two points.
That set up Roundy's big play and the home team was able to then make the lead even bigger with 16 minutes to go when freshman wing Tua Leai broke free for the final try of the match.
The Utes worked the ball into BYU territory but failed to crack the tough Cougar defense the rest of the way and BYU ended up with the victory.
"All 15 players played well," Smyth said. "If they hadn't, we would've ended up on the wrong side of the ledger."
The Cougars were awarded the Wasatch Cup for the eighth time in nine tries (Utah's only win came in 2005). Both teams still have hopes enjoying success in the upcoming national tournament which begins in May, so there is a possibility that the rivals will meet a second time.
BYU now gets a week off before closing out the regular season when it hosts Colorado on April 21. That game is scheduled to take place at 1 p.m.
Daily Herald sports editor Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He can also be followed on Twitter at @JaredrLloyd.