USA managed to score their first tries in the IRB Junior World Championship 2013 but it was not enough to stop them losing 46-12 to Fiji in the 11th place play-off in Nantes and be relegated back to the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy which they won last year.
Fiji led 22-0 at half-time at Stade Pascal Laporte after tries from scrum half Emori Waqa, wing Peceli Tuisese, prop Mesake Doge and hooker Tunai Vatubua, but the Junior All-Americans finally crossed the try-line in the 53rd minute through flanker Vili Toluta'u.
Prop Korbin Lindell also touched down, but late tries from Waqa and second row Viliame Rarasea gave the score line a comfortable looking feel to it for the Fijians, who avoided relegation on the final day for the second year in a row.
"I think one of the positives that has come from this experience is the guys know what a professional environment is, they have come up against professional players and they know what they have to do to make that step up so it has been a good learning curve," admitted USA captain Tom Bliss.
His coach Jason Kelly added: "Very disappointed, obviously we were realistic coming in and knew we would probably be in this match. I thought we prepared well in the lead up to the game but all the mistakes in the first half just really kind of cost us. We played a fair amount of rugby in the first half, but didn't take our chances and turnover D. It was just not good enough.
"There are some (positives), I guess it just depends on us as a coaching group and players themselves that when they go back home and if they have learned from this that they apply it in their rugby careers back in the States. If they don't then we have learned nothing, that has to happen for us to progress."
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The other match at Nantes was also a high-scoring affair with Samoa running out 33-24 winners over Scotland to avenge their last gasp defeat to the same side in the pool stages. The two sides had met in the ninth place play-off as well in 2012 but there was to be no repeat of the 62-28 win Scotland enjoyed that day.
Samoa scored two tries in the first 10 minutes through full back Melani Nanai, but Scotland hit back through Tommy Allan and Damien Hoyland to lead 14-12. Samoa, though, regrouped and scored again through Paul Slater to lead 20-17 at half time with match still very much in the balance.
Robbie Fergusson converted his own try just past the hour mark, but it was only in the last 10 minutes that Samoa made certain of victory when centre Calvary Fonoti scored his side's fourth try. Fly half AJ Alatimu converted it and added a penalty to ensure Samoa finish ninth and better their result of 2012.
The third place play-off in Vannes proved an entertaining affair between the only teams to have previously lifted the Junior World Championship trophy, South Africa recovering from a poor start to beat New Zealand 41-34 at the Stade de la Rabine.
New Zealand, having failed to reach the final for the first time in JWC history, came out firing and by the end of the first quarter they led 21-0 after two tries from wing Lolagi Visinia and one from number 8 Joe Webber and were threatening to run away with it.
It had been too easy for the Baby Blacks, Visinia coasting through a gap in the South African defence to score the first try and then easily reading a pass from Handrè Pollard to race 80 metres to score his second of the third place play-off.
Junior Boks fight back
South Africa, though, came alive and Luther Obi began their revival in the 32nd minute, a period of patient attack and quick ball created a mismatch in defence and the wing danced through to run round under the posts. Prop Luan de Bruin burrowed his way over the line for try number two before wing Seabelo Senalta intercepted and raced away for his seventh try of the tournament, one shy of the record for a single Junior World Championship, to tie it at 21-21.
New Zealand did regain the lead on the stroke of half time after a good break from Michael Collins, although there was a degree of good fortune to the try, as the centre's pass hit the deck and ultimately found its way into the hands of full back Joe Webber, who outpaced the covering defence to score in the corner.
Simon Hickey pushed the Baby Blacks out to 29-21 early in the second half with the first penalty of the match, but once more South Africa came back at New Zealand with captain Ruan Steenkamp having the strength to touch down as the Junior Springboks capitalised on their man advantage with Jordan Manihera in the sin-bin.
Replacement Kwagga Smith then gave the 2012 champions the lead for the first time in the match and Pollard pushed them out to two scores ahead with a penalty on the hour mark. New Zealand saw replacement hooker Kalafi Pongi sin-binned for taking a man out in the air and South Africa again capitalised, scrum half Stefan Ungerer adding a sixth try for his side.
New Zealand refused to just slip quietly to fourth and were rewarded with another try, Webber dancing around the defence and feeding Collins, who slipped it back inside for Manihera to make amends for his yellow card and dive over the line. That cut the deficit to a converted try but there was to be no more scoring.
France stun Argentina
Fifth place was claimed by France, albeit only after they recovered from a 22-point deficit at half-time to beat Argentina 37-34 at the Stade Henri Desgrange in La Roche-sur-Yon. France had enjoyed the perfect start when Teddy Thomas touched down after only two minutes, but the rest of the half was all Argentina.
Tomas Lezana and Pablo Matera, along with 15 points from the boot of fly half Patricio Fernandez gave Argentina a 27-5 lead at half-time, but replacement Vincent Mallet gradually chipped away at the deficit with the boot until Los Pumitas scored again through Lezana at the hour mark.
With a 34-17 lead there seemed to be no way back for France but the hosts had other ideas as they gave their fans something to cheer about with tries in the last five minutes from captain Paul Jedrasiak and full back Thomas to secure the win and a one place improvement on their ranking in 2012.
Australia, meanwhile, also finished on a positive note after overcoming Ireland 28-17 to avenge their loss on the opening day of the 2013 tournament in Vannes. This time, the Australians dominated and were rewarded with tries from Harry Parker and Michael Wells in the first half.
Luke Burton and Jake McIntyre kept the scoreboard ticking over and it was just before half time that Ireland finally got on the board with a penalty from Rory Scannell to send the Australians into the changing rooms with a comfortable 20-3 lead in La Roche-sur-Yon.
Ireland enjoyed the perfect start to the second half when full back Rory Scholes touched down after just two minutes, but they were never able to haul the Australians back in with Alex Northam scoring a third try to increase their lead and ensure they finished seventh, one place higher than 2012.