The USA U20s have qualified for the World Rugby Junior Trophy with a wild and improbably 19-18 victory over Canada.
02.13.2016 – ALEX GOFF
While there were several good performances in the game, the hero had to be flyhalf Ben Cima, who kicked four penalty goals, including the game-winner with no time left, from about 52 meters away.
Cima, who was a HS All American star at Gonzaga HS in the DC area,
Cima also helped set up the lone USA try, when he dummied through a tiny gap and offloaded to outside center Lorenzo Thomas.
The game began full of errors, with Canada kicking the opening kickoff out on the full. The USA took a scrum center, and at that moment it became clear that the Men’s Junior All Americans would struggle in the scrums. Canada powered over the US team, but were penalized for wheeling the scrum, as well.
So that produced a penalty right in halfway, which Cima calmly slotted for an early 3-0 lead for the USA.
The Americans did play a lot of rugby with the ball in hand, and players such as lock Malon Al-Jiboori, No. 8 and captain Hanco Germishuys, and Thomas all were tough for the Canadians to contain.
But Canada did defend well, forcing the USA team to be accurate in their approach, which they weren’t.
A penalty around midfield allowed Canada to kick to the corner, and spin it wide to score a try and lead 5-3. And after that it was a case of the USA U20s defending a lot, and trying to survive their penalties and other mistakes. Germishuys was a force, and inside center Brian Hannon laid out opponent after opponent with his textbook tackling.
Press from the USA team finally produced another penalty option for Cima, who was on target once again. That made it 6-5, and it was soon 9-5 with another Cima kick. Cima certainly had his eye in, as he suggested Germishuys give him the kicking tee on a penalty at halfway but at an angle. Cima’s kick was just short, but he was, again, perfectly on target.
Eventually, mistakes caught up with the Americans. Trying to play too much out of their own end, and then a balk call on a lineout in their own 22 put them under pressure, and, finally, a penalty kick from Robbie Povey. And right at the end of the half, with a little Canadian luck, they broke. Canada scored at the stroke of halftime to enter the break up 15-9 – Peter Milazzo capping off a movement that appeared to have a forward pass from George Barton, but one the referee allowed to go.
The game continued to be a battle of wills.
Germishuys, who had produced an impressive, rambling run through traffic to get his side out of trouble, needed to rally his players in the face of a soft try.
Scrumhalf Louis Mulholland almost had a chance to run through on a quick tap early, but his tap bounced off the referee. Instead, Cima opted for points, but missed.
However, the young Eagles continued to put offensive pressure on Canada – one of the few times they camped out in the Canadian 22. And the result was good.
Canada was offside on a clearance kick, and this time the Americans took the lineout. From there, Sean Coleman took Steven Branham’s throw, and while Coleman was allowed to plummet to the ground by his lifters, the USA recovered the ball and charged ahead with the forwards. Close to the line now, Mulholland sent it to Cima, who used Hannon as a decoy, attractive the attention of two tacklers, and popped to Thomas for the try.
That try, with Cima’s conversion made it 16-15 for the USA U20s.
The USA had another shot to score at 54 minutes, with a scrum five meters away. Al-Jiboori was over the line but held up. Then a play off the scrum was stopped with a forward pass by Mulholland, and Canada was able to get out of trouble.
The game became increasingly chippy as the importance of the game and the history behind this rivalry began to bold over. Canada had a man in the sin bin when fullback and captain Andrew Coe slammed an elbow into the back of flanker Brennan Falcon while Falcon was immobilized at the bottom of the ruck. Amazingly, it was just a penalty, not a yellow card. The USA called a scrum for the penalty. Hannon and fullback Mitchell Wilson launched an attack but in the end the Americans were penalized for in from the side – a penalty they didn’t need to commit at all.
The game remained mostly between the 22s, as each possession was a mini-battle. Neither team could get anything going for long because of the hits and the mistakes. The USA had plenty of attacking chances, though, and could not make them pay.
In the 74th minute, Canada got a penalty from a scrum, went for the lineout, and from there got another penalty for being offside in the lineout after Canada scrumhalf Cole Keffer let the ball slip through his fingers.
Povey lined up the tough angle shot and kicked it straight down the middle.
So Canada led 18-16, with about four minutes to go. The USA kicked deep on the restart and the clearance kick back was not far. So the USA had a good attacking platform, and sent Germishuys, Al-Jiboori, and sub forward George Fotu on several charges. Canada held firm. Both teams ripped the ball away, and the Americans inched their way forward. Canada was penalized near the sideline seven meters away, and Cima lined up a potential match-winner, but missed.
There was still 90 seconds to go, as Povey kicked the dropout deep. The ball came to Cima and he dummied and slid forward almost to halfway. The Canadians tackled him, but were penalized for killing the ball.
It was about 54 meters away from the Canadian line, and the USA players had no hesitation – points, they said, asking Cima to kick it one more time. The referee said the Junior All Americans had time for a lineout, but they shook their head – this was it. Mulholland handed Cima the ball and patted his head for luck.
— USA Rugby (@USARugby) February 14, 2016
Cima set the ball up on the tee, re-aligned the ball, backed up, and then went to re-align it once more. He then paused for just a few seconds, and thumped it over. It was a clutch kick for the ages, a kick that many test match kickers – perhaps most – wouldn’t be able to do, and it launched the USA team to the World Trophy in Zimbabwe.
Notes: The USA team did not select George Fotu for their squad because his high school basketball team was in the playoffs. But, apparently he was able to get away for this game after all, and was on the subs bench. He came on in the second half.
Cima, was of course one of the heroes, but Hannon was everything to the USA defense in the backline. Al-Jiboori was all sorts of useful as a runner, and Germishuys was all over the place. Thomas, Deion Miksell, and Wilson had some moments.
The tight five was under the cosh in the scrum, but worked enormously hard to get their team back in the game.
USA U20s 19
Pens: Cima 4
Canada U20s 18
Tries: Milazzo, Cooper
Pens: Povey 2
AIG Men’s Junior All-Americans | v. Canada
1. Connor Cudeback 2. Steven Branham 3. Nick Kwasniewski 4. Sean Coleman 5. Malon Al-Jiboori 6. Uki Taumoefolau 7. Brennan Falcon 8. Hanco Germishuys (C) 9. Louis Mulholland 10. Ben Cima 11. Deion Mikesell 12. Brian Hannon 13. Lorenzo Thomas 14. Tyler Sousley 15. Mitchell Wilson
AIG Men’s Junior All-Americans | Reserves
16. Zachary Haley 17. George Fotu 18. Mason Pedersen 19. Joshua Warnock 20. Chance Wenglewski 21. Ruben de Haas 22. Rodney Giles 23. Devin Lim
1. Cali Martinez 2. Andrew Quattrin 3. Matt Tierney 4. Reegan O’Gorman 5. Conor Keys 6. Adrian Wadden 7. Nakai Penny 8. Luke Bradley 9. Cole Keffer 10. Robbie Povey 11. Theo Sauder 12. George Barton 13. Phil Berna 14. Trenton Cooper 15. Andrew Coe (C)
Canada | Reserves
16. Conor Sampson 17. Brendan Blaikie 18. Curtis Delmonico 19. Matt Beukeboom 20. Peter Milazzo 21. Keaton Porter 22. Mitch Richardson 23. Aaron Evison