A stunning first half performance against Chile in the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy gave the USA Junior All-Americans a 30 point lead at the half and the USA weathered the Chilean storm in the second period to come out 54-25 winners to put them atop Pool A in the tournament.
The USA will face Russia on Tuesday (June 26) and if they win they are destined for the JWRT Final on June 30 at Murray Rugby Park.
Madison Hughes led the way on attack against Chile in the first half. He scored two scorching tries, used his boot to keep points going up on the board, and was a constant attacking threat. The Dartmouth star scored 34 points for the USA, finishing fabulous opportunities created by his teammates and also his dazzling speed.
Hughes finished a run down the middle from deep to score his first, collected a great grubber from center Tua Laei to score his second, and turned the corner on Chile to complete the hat trick. He nearly finished with four tries, but was dragged down agonizingly short of the goal line.
According to the man of the hour, it was not his individual skill but the right game plan with the right players to carry it out.
“We felt that if we worked hard and wore them down, we would get opportunities out wide, especially in the first half,” Hughes said.
The All-American forwards were bruising once again and combined well with the backs to cause mayhem for the Chilean defense. Kingsley McGowan hit a great line to score a try and Tua Laei showed his pace in the centers finding a high gear and cruising through a gap to get a five pointer.
Excellent execution by the backs and a hard-nosed performance by the loose forwards all contributed to the win. A late run by Chile was too little too late and the USA finished with two tries in three minutes to pull away and close it out.
Mike Te’o struck from short range in the second and Pasefika Iosia finished a great break made by Teli Veamatahau in midfield. It completed the win, but the All-Americans know there is work to be done before they can truly celebrate.
With Russia standing between the USA and the JWRT final, Hughes knows the Russians won’t rollover despite being winless in the tournament.
“Everyone gets better from game to game, so we’ll have a tough task with [Russia],” Hughes said.
USA Junior All-Americans 54
Tries: Hughes (3), McGowan, Laei, Te’o, Iosia
Conversions: Hughes (2)
Penalties: Hughes (5)
Tries: Mayol, Nordenflycht, Ianiszewski
Penalties: Baraona (2)
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