April 7 ISN – The form book was turned upside down on day one of the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2014 in Hong Kong with fancied Canada and Japan both losing their opening Pool B matches to Namibia and Uruguay respectively on Monday.
Second seeds Canada were stunned 37-25 by Namibia, who played a wide and open game that cleverly pushed their bigger opponents around the Hong Kong Football Club pitch and took the sting out of them.
Fly half Chris Arries contributed 17 points and led the way for Namibia with tries coming from scrum half JC Winkler, number 8 Wian Conradie, wing Reinold Benade and replacement back Ascher Coetzee.
“It was a hard game but we stuck to our game plan which was to shift the ball out wide and away from their forwards. Our forwards also stood up to them and did us proud,” said Namibia head coach Jan Dames.
Canada’s points came from tries by second row Justin Douglas, wing Charles Debove and number 8 Matt Mullins while full back Adam McQueen added two conversions and two penalties as the 2013 runners-up failed to make the start they hoped.
“We played poorly, made too many errors and turned over too much ball and lost to a very good Namibia side that physically beat us up,” said disappointed Canada coach Mike Shelley.
“They moved us around the park and were physically better than us in the crucial areas, and slowed our ball down which affected our game.”
Huge win for Uruguay
In the tournament’s opening match, Japan had failed to make headway at the breakdown and tumbled to a surprise 33-28 loss at the hands of Uruguay in a close and entertaining encounter in the other Pool B match.
Disappointed Japan coach Keisuke Sawaki placed the blame for the loss squarely on his players’ inability to come to terms with the officiating at the breakdown, as well as struggling to cope at the scrums against their bigger opponents.
Hard-working Uruguayan hooker German Kessler scored either side of half-time while full back Matias Pla also touched down as the South Americans led from the outset. Fly half Manuel Blengio kicked four penalties and converted all three tries for a personal haul of 18 points.
Kessler’s second try pushed Uruguay to a 33-14 lead before Japan, the third seeds, clawed their way back with two second-half tries but despite the 2008 champions missing forward Diego Arbelo they held firm to eke out a hard-fought victory.
“This is a huge win for us. We only have four teams to select from in this age group in our country and our player resources are very limited. To beat a side like Japan who can pick from thousands of players is massive,” said elated Uruguay coach Martin Mendaro.
Japan’s points were scored by wing Kenichiro Kuwae, who grabbed a brace, and a try apiece from prop Takayuki Watanabe and flanker Ryoi Kamei. Captain and fly half Rikiya Matsuda converted all four tries but crucially missed two penalties that could have put his team in front.
The Japanese squad is being looked at to form the nucleus of the team when the country hosts Rugby World Cup 2019, but Sawaki was critical of his team’s performance and said very few would have been picked as potential stars for the future based on their opening performance.
“If these players wish to be counted when the 2019 Rugby World Cup is hosted by Japan, then very few would have put their hand up. They were not strong mentally and Uruguay was definitely hungrier than us today,” Sawaki said.
Rock up or lose
Top seeded United States ensured they did not suffer the same fate as Canada and Japan with a strong second half performance against their hosts Hong Kong. They had led only 8-0 at half-time, but scored 29 points after the break to win 37-0.
A brace each from centres Nemia Qoro and Gabe Farley, plus a sweeping try from full back Niall Barry put the Americans in the box seat as they brushed aside a valiant effort from Hong Kong who were making their tournament debut.
“It was a game of two halves,” said Hong Kong coach Pale Tauti. “We failed to cope with the pressure the Americans put us under early in the second half but I’m pleased with the effort the guys put in.
USA coach Billy Millard added: “We’re reasonably happy. It is always good to get one on the board to know where you are at. We have got a lot to address but I thought they stuck with it, especially in the second half where we addressed a few things and they executed really well.”
Millard also expressed his shock at the loss of neighbours Canada. “I’m definitely surprised that Namibia beat Canada but if you don’t rock up, this is what happens,” he admitted.
In the other Pool A match, Georgia swept to a convincing 34-10 victory over Tonga after leading 21-0 at half-time with number 8 Vakhtang Amiranashvili collecting a brace and fly half Revaz Jinchvelashvili adding 16 points from four penalties and two conversions.
Georgia captain Saba Shubitidze opened the scoring in only the third minute and his side didn’t look back from that moment against an opponent who twice was reduced to 13 players as a result of yellow cards.
The tournament continues on Friday at the Hong Kong Football Club when USA face Georgia and Tonga tackle Hong Kong in Pool A, while Japan face Namibia and Canada take on Uruguay in Pool B.