Japan beat Canada 30-15, Samoa were too strong for Uruguay beating them 37-6, Russia managed to withhold USA for a 42-36 win, and in front of a loud partisan crowd Georgia continued its unbeaten run, beating Zimbabwe 50-19 in the second round of matches at the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy in Tbilisi, Georgia.
With three unbeaten sides left in the competition, there is a still lot to play for, next Wednesday 1 June when the pool stage reaches its climax.
Samoa 37 – Uruguay 6
The intentions of the Samoans were clear from the moment they landed in Tbilisi. They are here to win the IRB JWRT and at the day’s only game at the Shevardeni Stadium they showed they have the capability to beat their opponents.
They overpowered Uruguay in the backs where their speed, vision and precision saw them find spaces that were turned into points. Uruguay’s defence found it hard to cope with the Samoans but were good in their set pieces throughout the game. Their structured game plan could not cope with the unstructured style of the Samoans.
The Pacific Islanders were brilliant offloading the ball, a distinctive feature of the team coached by former internationals John Schuster and Peter Fatialofa.
The first of three tries, by Faavae Faavae, was simply executed; the second was a gem, with captain Patrick Fa’apale combining with centre Faavae for the try. Fa’apale scored his try and would finish the game with a 12 point contribution.
The game’s best try was in the 47th minute. From within their own five-metre line and after at least five Samoans handled the ball, they scored in the other corner through flanker Jordan Taufua.
This was to be the game-breaker, as after that, Uruguay were no longer in a position to win the game. By then, fly half Felipe Berchesi, with a drop goal, and captain Agustín Ormaechea, with a penalty, had scored the Uruguayan points.
Samoa continued to pound the Uruguayans, who were unable to stop them from scoring two more tries to complete the six-try victory.
Samoan captain Fa’apale said: “We knew the game would be very hard and we paid considerable attention to defence. We did make mistakes; Uruguay is a very good and well organized team.”
Uruguayan assistant coach Juan Baldomir added: “Samoa was much stronger and they were in much better shape. We tried our best but the backs failed to put up a good defensive screen, especially in the first half. We hope to perform better in the next two games.”
Russia 42 – USA 36
If the game between Russia and USA serves as preview of what the Bears and Eagles Rugby World Cup match will be like in New Plymouth, New Zealand, on 15 September, then we can expect a thrilling game. USA always played from behind but never gave up, whilst Russia, more clinical, secured a much-celebrated 42-36 win, in a nine-try fest.
The first try came after sustained pressure from Russia, who overpowered the defence for a try by full back Denis Simplikevich, who would score a hat trick.
Five minutes later, it was USA’s turn. Several phases led to a sweet flat pass from captain Will Magie to half back Michael Oliver for a neat try.
Russia were not going to lie down and within three minutes they scored again. Scrum half German Godlyuk broke close to a ruck and after a long run passed inside to Simplikevick for a try under the posts.
Simplikevich would get his hat trick four minutes after the break, with incredible dexterity to generate space and score in the corner to take his team to a 17-point lead after Godluyk’s superb touchline conversion.
USA did not lie down and score twice in quick succession. After a superb offload to centre Bubba Jones, the score was reduced to 10 points. When it seemed that Godluyk had scored, USA pinched the ball from under his arms to score at the other end of the pitch; winger Madison Hughes touching down. Rather than securing the game, Russia were then defending a three-point lead.
The crowd did not have to wait long for another try. This time the Russia forwards did all the hard work – initially taking a scrum from a penalty and then turning a ruck to a try. Pride was crucial for both teams. USA full back Joe Cowley’s angled run ended in a great individual try, which he then converted.
With 18 minutes to play the game was open. Russia and USA scored a try each, leaving the score within six points. It was enough for Russia to defend their lead and earn a deserved win.
Russian vice-captain Yuri Vengerov said: “For the next game, we must try to cut the number of mistakes to a minimum. Though we had a hard time late in the match, we managed to win and this was really important for our team.”
USA captain Magie said: “The amount of mistakes we let slip was considerably big; this made us lose 25 points against a good opponent. Russian players were in a better physical shape which caused us many problems.”
Japan 30 – Canada 15
With Georgian First Lady Sandra Roelof as an interested spectator amongst the 1,300 spectators who arrived early, Pool B action opened at the Avchala Stadium with Canada and Japan wanting to play an expansive game. Conditions were great for open rugby, a warm breeze in the face of the Japanese in the first half.
The game’s opening try did not take long to come. Canada executed a set move from a lineout that saw left-winger Jeff Hassler run through the centres to score almost unopposed in the fifth minute.
Japan never ceased to attack and despite a number of turnovers going against them, they finally managed to cross through prop Nao Enoki after a pick-and-go close to the try-line. Ryodo Nakamura added the goal.
The Japanese second try was more reflective of their style, with wing Masakatsu Hirosaka breaking directly from quick ball from a lineout.
With Japan trying to run from their own half, Hassler intercepted a two on one situation and rather than having Japan scoring fifty yards up-field, it was Canada that got the five pointer.
Fly half Nakamura redeemed himself in the last move of the half with a superbly timed flat pass for winger Hirosaka to score, again, in the corner for a 17-10 half time lead.
Japan scored their third try in the 47th minute and pushed Canada hard, almost scoring twice. A clean break from Clayton Meeres and quick passing allowed captain Tylor Ardron to show his speed, scoring after a 30-yard run for an unconverted try.
Japan got their bonus point try in the 80th minute; replacement back Kodi Noda closing the scoreline at 30-15.
“Despite the win,” Japanese captain Keisuke Uchida said. “We are not happy. We want to play better against Georgia, which will be a crucial game.”
Canadian captain Tyler Ardron thought the scrums were the main problem for his side. “We started well and managed to score an early try, but as the game progressed we let it slip out of hand. Our scrums were especially faulty, and all this reflected on the final score.”
Georgia 50 – Zimbabwe 19
By the end of the day, the Avchala ground was sold-out with 2,000 loud spectators. They were not to be disappointed when in the initial minutes, captain David Losaberidze scored a try after sustained pressure, which began with a great run by prop Levan Chilachava.
Zimbabwe replied with the day’s only drop-goal and a penalty by Tommy Nelson
It took the Georgians a lot of effort to work their way back to a try-scoring position; peeling from the back of a line, and after a ruck, Chilachava dived over for a much applauded try.
Right after the half hour mark, Zimbabwe’s attacking capabilities were seen in full; breaking from their own 25 metres and after captain Marco Mana got into the opposition defence, winger Justin Coles three times stepped inside before connecting with fellow winger Kuda Chiwanza, who showed his incredible speed for Zimbabwe’s try.
A late charge gave Zimbabwe the chance to draw the game with a 40-metre penalty by Nelson. But Georgia would go to the changing room with a seven-point lead as lock Beka Bitsadze scored from the back of a ruck.
From the kick-off Zimbabwe were back in the game. A loose kicked was not gathered by the Georgians and Chiwanza was at the end of a passing sequence for an unconverted try.
The brute strength of the Georgians was crucial and they overpowered the Zimbabweans for another try. But it was flanker Giorgi Tkeshaliadze who broke Zimbabwe’s hearts when he charged down a kick and ran 50 metres to score under the posts. That was the end of the game for the Africans, as the home side went on to score two more tries to close the game.
“We tried to play wide in the first half and score some good tries; a couple of things didn’t fall our way in the second half and that was what killed us in the end,” said losing captain Marco Mama.
“The score did not reflect the differences. They were probably cleverer than us in many ways. We are very disappointed but must work on our positives for our next game against Canada,” said Zimbabwe head coach Bright Chivandire.
Georgian head coach Paata Marimanashvili concluded: “We knew the speed of the Zimbabweans, they exposed us initially but in the second half we changed our tactics, played tighter and managed to take a wonderful win. We had to throw all our efforts in defence and close the spaces into which they could attack us.”
With additional reporting from Archil Tchumburidze and George Tchumburidze