The USA Junior All-Americans scored five tries against Russia to win 36-13, but it was after their fourth score that they were assured a spot in the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy final thanks to a bonus point that put them out of reach of all of their Pool A opponents.
The win puts USA in the final against Japan on Saturday June 30. That game kicks off at 6 p.m. MDT and will be webcast live on KSL.com and DeseretNews.com.
Hooker Mike Te’o led the way scoring two tries and the other three scores came from workhorse outside center Tanner Barnes, scrumhalf Nick Boyer, and second rower Nick Barrett.
Given the somewhat experimental lineup, the chemistry eventually seeped in and saw the JAAs hit their stride.
Captain Will Magie responded appropriately to the pressure being asserted by the Russians in the first half, increasing his involvement and barking at his team to kick into gear. By the 55th minute, they had certainly done that.
“All the guys that came in did really well, obviously there will be a few rusty combinations but I think we weathered that in the middle period,” Magie said after the win.
The defensive effort of Glendale winger Iniki Fa’amausili helped keep Russia in check and was able to halt a number of dangerous looking Russian attacks.
Offloads in contact and a sense of urgency that built as the game wore on helped the USA steadily build their lead.
The confidence in attack increased and Veli Teamatahau, Glen Thommes, and Te’o had moments of brilliance that led to points. All three of those players are forwards whose physicality also wore on the Russians.
On Te’o, Magie praised the 5’7”, 215 lbs. hooker’s effort and gave him some good-natured ribbing in the process.
“He’s been itching to get some tries,” Magie said of Te’o. “Mike’s a great runner in open play and he still thinks he’s a back. He keeps harping on [USA backs coach Jason Kelly] whether he can get in on the wing. He had a great game today and obviously his lineout throwing was superb as well.”
As for the opposition in the final game, Magie plans to focus more on what his side is capable of instead of what Japan might do.
“Japan looks good. Technically they’re really good. We’re going to watch them see their strengths, but we’ll focus on our strengths and what we can do,” Magie said.
The game on Saturday will mark Japan’s third consecutive appearance in the JWRT final, losing last year to Samoa. The winner will elevate to compete in the IRB Junior World Championship in 2013.
USA Rugby Junior All-Americans 36
Tries: Boyer, Te’o (2), Barnes, Barrett
Conversions: Hughes (4)
Tries: Romanov, Chechura
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