Canada snatches victory in first leg of World Rugby U20 Trophy qualifier

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(ISN) – SHAWNIGAN LAKE, British Columbia – The USA Rugby AIG Men’s Junior All-Americans suffered a late, 24-23, defeat to Canada Monday in the first of two matches to be played north of the border this week.

Flanker Hanco Germishuys scored the match’s first try and fly half Ben Cima accounted for 13 points for the MJAAs in the loss, though the team did not trail until the final whistle in the first leg of the World Rugby U20 Trophy qualifier series. Match two is scheduled for Friday in Langford at Rugby Canada’s Center of Excellence.

The name of the game may as well have been “set piece,” as both teams had plenty of practice with lineouts and scrums Monday with rain falling before and during the match.

A seventh-minute lineout was won by Canada, but the slippery ball rolled out of scrum half Dan Joyce’s hands directly to the pitch. Germishuys grabbed the ball without a defender in the vicinity and raced 40 meters before being taken down over the try line. Cima’s conversion went through the uprights to give the All-Americans the early, 7-0, lead.

Canadian center Guiseppe du Toit handled kicking duties for his side and took advantage of a penalty against the MJAAs in the scrum in the 12th minute to put his side on the board. The 40-meter penalty goal made the score 7-3 before Cima replied with his first penalty goal in the 17th minute for a 10-3 MJAA lead.

Open play favored Canada more often than not throughout the match, though it took a few individual plays to break through the defensive line. Canada won its own lineout in the 19th minute and quickly moved the ball wide to full back Andrew Coe for the team’s first try. Du Toit’s conversion kick was unsuccessful, however, keeping the MJAAs’ lead at 10-8.

Unforced errors kept the MJAAs from threatening in the second 20-minute frame, including multiple attempted kicks to touch that either did not find touch or did inside their own 10. The Canadian maul looked dangerous from the lineouts but was stopped by the forward pack and penalties before it could do damage on the scoreboard.

Cima ended a scoring play from a chip kick in the 31st minute with a sliding tackle on the ball to kick it into touch, but Canada was awarded a penalty with the pressure in the MJAAs’ half minutes later. Du Toit’s kick was wide to keep the MJAAs with a slender lead, but a nervy play began with Cima’s kick to restart play blocked until a teammate grabbed the ball and took it to midfield.

The half ended with a penalty to the MJAAs, and Cima extended the team’s lead to 13-8 at the break.

Penalty trouble again set up Canada for success in the opening minutes of the second half, with du Toit adding another penalty goal to draw his side within two points at 13-11.

Cima missed two penalty goal attempts of his own within a two-minute span, but his teammates redeemed the Men’s Eagles Spring Camp invitee with a try minutes later.

In the 52nd minute, the slick ball meandered through multiple sets of hands on both teams before the MJAAs kicked it down the pitch to the try line. The MJAAs moved up to the gain line with force to keep Canada from escaping until the neighbors drew a penalty. Following multiple scrums, Joyce attempted a box kick that bounced off of a teammate in the breakdown.

The ball squirted loose to captain Christian Wiessing, who, from the ground, quickly spun the ball out to the wing. The pass found grass before hands, but Seth Halliman did well to take his opposite number out of the play and get the ball to the onrushing Ian Kinsly for the score. Cima’s conversion and a penalty goal five minutes later, thanks to superb pressure from the MJAAs, pushed the lead further to 23-11.

The final 20 minutes belonged to Canada, however, starting from the restart in the 61st minute. No. eight Luke Bradley was on the front foot whenever he touched the ball and the scrum consistently gave the MJAAs fits. Canada got back onto the scoreboard in the 69th minute with a forward’s try from Paul Cuilini to make the score 23-16.

The missed conversion could have cost Canada, but the same can be said with any of either team’s missed kicks. Canada went right back to work on the restart and a lengthy run from Bradley helped set up the next scoring play. Bradley’s run took Canada to the MJAAs’ 22, where quick passing to the wing allowed Theo Sauder to round Scott Dean for the try. Du Toit’s conversion was again wide, giving the MJAAs a slender lead with minutes remaining.

It was not to be for the MJAAs at Shawnigan Lake School, as a last-minute penalty against Michael Engelbrecht’s team gave du Toit the perfect platform in the middle of the pitch to steal the 24-23 win.

The World Rugby U20 Trophy qualifier series is still anyone’s to win or lose, as a one-point margin is all that separates the MJAAs and Canada. The second and final leg of the 2015 series is scheduled for 10 p.m. ET Friday, March 27, at Westhills Stadium at Rugby Canada’s Center of Excellence. Follow @aarugby on Twitter for updates from the team throughout the week and live match updates, and watch the match on Rugby Canada TV.

AIG Men’s Junior All-Americans | v Canada U20
1. James Gannon
2. Lucas Joseph
3. Valdemar Lee-lo
4. Oliver Drew
5. Christian Wiessing (C)
6. Braeden Hood
7. Jacobus Germishuys
8. Maciu Koroi
9. Louis Mulholland
10. Ben Cima
11. Seth Halliman
12. Fitou Fisiiahi
13. Ian Kinsly
14. Connor McRae
15. Scott Dean

AIG Men’s Junior All-Americans | Reserves
16. Gabe Romero
17. Nick Kwasniewski
18. Victor Comptat
19. Brian Nault
20. Erik Thompson
21. Oisin Brady
22. Babapelumu Adejuyigbe

Canada U20 | v AIG Men’s Junior All-Americans
1. Brendan Blaikie
2. John Shaw
3. Matt Tierney
4. Paul Cuilini
5. Adrian Wadden
6. Lucas Rumball (C)
7. Ollie Nott
8. Luke Bradley
9. Dan Joyce
10. Dylan Horgan
11. Karsten Leitner
12. Guiseppe du Toit
13. Mitch Santilli
14. Theo Sauder
15. Andrew Coe

Canada U20 | Reserves
16. Paddy Finlay
17. Conor Young
18. Cali Martinez
19. Reegan O’Gorman
20. Mitch Rothman
21. Tony Pomroy
22. Philip Berna

AIG Men’s Junior All-Americans | 23
Tries: Germishuys, Kinsly
Conversions: Cima (2)
Penalties: Cima (3)

Canada | 24
Tries: Coes, Cuilini, Sauder
Conversions: N/A
Penalties: du Toit (3)

AIG Men’s Junior All-Americans | World Rugby U20 Trophy qualifier series
v. Canada U20 – L 24-23
v. Canada U20 – Friday, March 27 – 10 p.m. ET – Westhills Stadium