The BYU men's rugby team had an assist Saturday in the Varsity Cup semifinals at South Field against Navy from an unexpected source -- heavy rains that drenched Utah Valley for much of the day.
While all the moisture in the air made the ball slick, soaked the players, made footing precarious and kept the crowd small, it also helped keep the Cougars from trying to do too much. With BYU focused on limiting mistakes, it turned in one of its best all-around performances of the year on its way to a 60-0 blowout of the Midshipmen.
"Last week we came out kind of slow but this week everyone was ready to roll," Cougar junior center Paul Lasike said. "We were a lot more conscious. Last week the weather was perfect and we were trying to be fancy, but this week we kept it in tight. We kept the moves simple, running off each other, running direct lines. I thought the boys did a lot better."
Lasike said that this type of weather isn't his favorite but he's played plenty of rugby in similar conditions back home in New Zealand.
"With the weather and everything, it feels like I'm back at home playing grassroots rugby," he said. "It comes with sport. When you think of rugby, you think of clouds and rain and playing out there with everyone being wet."
Fellow Kiwi Jonathan "Johnny Rugby" Linehan also said the sheets of rain brought back plenty of memories.
"Growing up in New Zealand, this is what you played in -- this is what you lived in," Linehan said. "My club back home had a cricket pitch and it would always fill up with water. We'd just go slide in it after the game."
Although BYU rugby coach David Smyth said the weather was a concern, the end result was an impressive Cougar performance.
"I was very pleased with the boys all around," Smyth said. "I think in every phase of the game we played very well. The boys worked hard. The weather obviously was a concern for us going in and it definitely was a concern during the game. But I thought we did really well maintaining possession of the ball, keeping it safe. When we had chances, we took them."
The Cougars started things off with an early try by Jared Whippy, but he ended up with a dislocated thumb and Lasike came on to replace him.
"I'm back at home," Lasike said. "It's pretty fun to be back with the boys, mixing and mingling."
Smyth said both Lasike and Linehan played very well for the Cougars.
"Lasike had a great game today," he said. "I thought Linehan managed it really well from the flyhalf position, putting the ball over their heads to the corner and turning them around. I was really happy for all of them."
Lasike had a run in the 29th minute where he got the ball on the left side and saw a Navy defender coming, but elected not to try anything fancy.
"It's a great feeling," Lasike said. "Playing football has taught me to hold the ball up tight and just run it straight as a fullback. When the opportunity came, I wasn't even going to try and run around him. I was just going to run straight and he ended up bouncing off me."
BYU just kept scoring as the offense got tries from Chris Wernli (2), Zane Mendenhall, Joe Pikula, Steve Saia and Josh Henderson.
But while the offense was impressive, the defense kept the Midshipmen from getting very many opportunities and held them scoreless.
"We've been looking for that all year and we finally got it," Smyth said.
With the impressive performance, the Cougars feel like they are ready to take on Cal in a rematch of last year's thrilling BYU victory. The Bears beat Central Washington, 58-14, in the other semifinal.
"It will be fun," Linehan said. "We respect Cal. They are a great program. We're just excited to play them. We only get one shot, if that, every season and that's when we meet them in the championship. We don't know them too much but we know if we go out and play BYU rugby, there aren't many people who can stop us."
The Varsity Cup national championship will take place on May 3 at Rio Tinto Stadium at 2 p.m.