BY LAFE PEAVLER
Those who think that BYU and Utah rugby is a minor sport should have seen the crowd at BYU’s South Field as the Cougars and Utes faced off for the Wasatch Cup.
Fans filled the bleachers both south and east of the stadium. When those seats were gone, the BYU and Utah faithful lined the sideline to watch the game.
It was truly a sight to behold.
BYU rugby head coach David Smyth complimented fans from both teams. “I think it’s a big thing, especially when it gets really tight there, when it’s back and forth and both teams are really going at it. The home crowd does help. … There were also quite a few Utah fans in the crowd as well. I heard them cheer, so that was good. It was a great atmosphere. Friday night, standing room only even over on our sideline, and there was more people there than I’ve ever seen before.”
BYU winger Jordan Lowry also complimented the crowd. “Holy cow! Big old crowd tonight. There was a big play where the crowd went wild. It was awesome.”
Indeed it was awesome. BYU will need to build more bleachers around South Field if rugby continues to draw such crowds.
I was fortunate enough to talk to a few the fans before the game. I talked with Charleen and Alicia Doman. Both of them come to all the rugby games. “They have to see it to experience it,” Alicia told me. “I’ve brought a lot of friends over who have converted over to rugby.” When I asked them what the best thing about being a rugby fan, Charleen said, “It’s exciting, it’s non-stop.”
Danny Jacobson also goes to as many rugby games as he can. “It’s a fast-paced game. It’s a fun game. It’s really entertaining to watch 15 guys work in unison. It’s a hard-hitting game, so if you’re into watching hard hits, it’s awesome.” He really got into rugby when he came to Provo. “I really didn’t get into rugby until I came to BYU as a student, and I can’t get enough of it.”
While this was a home game for the Cougars, there were plenty of Utes fans that also came to support their team. Shelly Jensen and Katie Roughlin were decked out head to toe in Utah red. The funny thing is that Roughlin is from New Zealand, where rugby is extremely popular, but she didn’t really get into rugby until after she came to Utah.
“I never liked rugby when I lived in New Zealand,” she told me with a laugh. “It was when I moved here and I had sons. I just felt like it would be lovely if they played a sport that New Zealand is good at.” Her oldest son played for Highland Rugby Club for a year, and other of her sons played for Herriman’s championship clubs. One of her sons currently plays for Utah.
Finally, I talked to a few people selling BYU rugby shirts. On the back, the shirt says, “No Scholarships, Just Championships.” I just had to ask about these awesome shirts.
A.J. Thompson was one of those people, and I asked him about the message on the shirts. “Well, you know that rugby is a pretty intense sport that requires out of the boys, and they’re doing this without a scholarship. So, where just trying to get the word out here that our boys are working hard. There doing all that they need to do, and they’re still winning championships.”
Hard to argue with that given that BYU just unveiled its third national championship banner at the game.
Visiting that BYU vs. Utah rugby game was a real treat for a sport that has gained a lot of traction in the state of Utah. The fans were completely awesome, and I hope to return to talk to more of them in upcoming games.
Lafe Peavler is a staff sports writer for the Deseret News. Follow him on Twitter @LafePeavler.