Samoa celebrate as they lift the trophy - Photo: Giorgi Bukhaidze
Samoa defeated Japan 31-24 to claim the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2011 crown and with it, qualification to the IRB Junior World Championship 2012 in South Africa.
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Samoa full back Peter Schuster’s try deep into added time proved the difference in an enthralling final that Japan had led 17-0 midway through the first half.
Georgia beat a spirited Uruguayan team 20-15 to take third place and confirm the growth of the game in this country. The legacy in Georgia is huge as eight matches were shown live across the four match days of the tournament. The standard of play was high and the style attractive, ensuring that the sustained growth of the game in this country has received a new push.
Canada took fifth place beating Russia 49-24 and USA seventh by defeating Zimbabwe 30-29.
Samoa 31 – Japan 24
The Japanese were in early control and took a 17-point lead in the first quarter with two very neat tries. They took the game to the Samoans who were perhaps surprised by their commitment.
The first try was simply executed: from the back of a scrum, number 8 Olive Taufa popped the ball to scrum half Keisuke Uchida, whose lovely long pass found wing Masakatasu Hikosaka. Hisoka cut outside one defender and inside another to touch down.
The second arrived after a lineout drive with hooker Yoshikatsu Hikosaka diving at the feet of the Samoans who were unable to stop him.
When fly half Ryodo Nakamura kicked a penalty to extend Japan’s lead to 17-0, it was hard to see how the Samoans could find a way back. They did it with their usual style, attacking from broken play and soon generating holes that they exploited.
In only the second incursion into Japanese territory, flanker Jordan Taufua dived over for the try, soon after followed by a far more extravagant dive from centre Robert Lilomaiava after he broke cleanly in the centres. A superb chip from fly half Patrick Fa’apale gave impressive centre Faavae Faavae a try in the corner to put the game 19-17 in Samoa’s favour going in to the break.
The second half continued to have some good rugby despite the lack of scoring for 20 minutes. When the try finally came it was after the Samoans managed to pass the ball under heavy defensive tackling for an unconverted try to wing Viliamu Alauni.
But Japan were not finished. Prop Mao Enoki emerged from the bottom of a rolling maul to claim the try; the angled goal from fly half Ryodo Nakamura left the score 24-24.
When the crowd thought, hoped, the game would now go to sudden death, a superbly timed flat pass from captain Fa’apale put ful lback Peter Schuster in for the winning try in the corner. Fa’apale added the goal to settle the final 31-24.
Japanese coach Yukio Motoki said “The Samoans were very strong and we couldn’t control their unstructured attacking. They kept coming at us. At this tournament we realised how high the standard is.”
Japan captain Keisuke Uchida added “The experience of playing in such as a final is something that will always be with me.”
John Schuster, a happy winning coach said “I felt that for us the key was when we managed to string phases, managed to make no mistakes and control the ball better. Japan started the game very well but we were also making a lot of mistakes in the first quarter, missing try-scoring opportunities.
“We were very lucky to win it. Japan played extremely well today; they had a well-structured game, forcing us into many mistakes. We feel very lucky to have won.”
Georgia 20 – Uruguay 15
This third place playoff was always going to be a hard-fought game with both Georgia and Uruguay taking pride in their physicality. In the end, it was Georgia who won 20-15.
There were few areas, if any, where a team was superior to the other. Both sides had solid platforms to attack thanks to good set piece possession. Georgia were a bit more adventurous with the ball in hand as Uruguay chose to use the boot, even at times when it did not seem the best option.
Kickers played a key role in the game and Georgia’s Bakhva Kobakhidze and Uruguay’s Felipe Berchesi had the game in their boots as defences were tight and few opportunities to play open rugby came either team’s way.
It was the sheer size of the home pack that allowed them to score the first try at the half hour mark. After both kickers had exchanged two penalties apiece, Uruguayan possession was turned over and the ball spun wide. When the defenders stopped the attack, a series of rucks followed, the third of which saw prop Levan Chilichava cross for the try.
As the half was coming to a conclusion, a series of Georgian attacks eventually found numerical superiority giving fly half Ucha Mchedlishvili a small gap from which to score.
At 20-6, Uruguay had to take the game to the Georgians. Captain Berchesi showed an educated boot to kick two long-range penalties; in between Rodrigo Silva kicked a superb drop goal under heavy Georgian pressure.
With the home side down to 14 players with five minutes to play, Uruguay failed to capitalize on their advantage as the Georgian defence stood firm.
Uruguayan assistant coach Juan Baldomir admitted the Georgian pressure was hard to manage. “We got better in the second half. Yet, the Georgians had a clear physical advantage and this told in the score.”
Felipe Berchesi echoed the feeling of every player in the tournament when he said: “I would like to thank the IRB and the Georgian Rugby Union for the wonderful Junior World Rugby Trophy we enjoyed.”
Georgia’s vice-captain Giorgi Tkesheliadze spoke about the game. “Uruguay has good forwards, but we managed to create advantages. It is very unfortunate that we lost against Japan and missed the final, but I am happy that we finished our participation in the tournament with a win,” he said.
Georgia’s head coach Paata Narimanashvili added “The first and second halves were totally different. I am happy we managed to win this game. It is true that we committed many mistakes and allowed our opponent to play on. Uruguay has a high potential to develop into a really good national side in the near future.”
Canada 49 – Russia 24
Canada showed more determination to beat Russia 49-24 and take fifth place at the IRB JWRT. The Canadians scored six tries to the Russians three; after a strong start they never seemed to be in a position to lose the game.
Captain and number 8 Tyler Ardron was impressive as was winger Jeff Hassler, who scored three tries.
Ardron’s team found different ways to score tries: intercept, pick and go, long runs, and the speed and skills to beat a static defence.
Canada fly half Carlin Hamstra intercepted a loose pass to run unopposed and soon after Ardron scored his try. Russia hit back with flanker Nikolay Pochechuev barging through four tackles. His side never looked like scoring again in the first half.
Ardron gave a neat inside pass to lock Cameron Pierce before Hamstra got his brace. Speedster Hassler then scored two tries, with a penalty kicked by Liam Underwood in between.
After six first half tries and losing 7-41, Russia came back looking for a better performance in their last 40 minutes in the tournament.
They outscored the Canadians 12-8 and even when they were down to 13 men, impressive captain Stanislav Sel’skiy scored a try after forwards and backs combined.
Canadian coach Michael Shelley was “satisfied with my team’s performance, especially with the forwards. The players ran through the moves they had been learning throughout the tournament, and this showed on the final score.”
Canadian captain Tyler Ardron said “We had a game plan on things we wanted to execute and they worked out. We are happy to take the win after what was a great experience in Georgia.”
Russia’s Captain Stanislav Sel’sky, after congratulating the Canadians for their win, said “They played really well; but we failed to have some organization to our game; probably because our mood was not right.”
His coach Andrey Cherevichny spoke highly of the standard of this Trophy. “The participating teams were very strong, probably Samoa the best of them. As regards our defeat, I can only explain it through lack of motivation from my players.”
USA 30 – Zimbabwe 29
USA flies home having won their last game against Zimbabwe by one point in an entertaining 30-29 seventh place playoff at the Shevardeni Stadium. The first half finished with the same one point difference: 15-14.
Both teams were evenly matched in an entertaining match, although USA was superior in set pieces.
Even though Zimbabwe scored the first try to take an early 7-3 lead, once USA scored their first try, they never relinquished the lead. A second try within five minutes was soon answered with a Zimbabwean try.
By then, scrumhalf Jiji had taken the field from the reserves bench and one of the star performers in the tournament renewed the attitude of Zimbabwe.
USA winger So’oalo got his try soon after the second half restart. Zimbabwe continued to try to find ways to unsettle the Americans and in the 61st minute they managed a try through winger Coies.
USA got another converted try and after both kickers exchanged penalties, USA took an eight-point lead. Even with Zimbabwe managing a late converted try USA was a deserved winner. Zimbabwe won the hearts of the local Georgian fans with their adventurous style of rugby.
Zimbabwe’s assistant coach Godwin Murambiwa said “We could have won the game and overall, our performance was very good. Until the last moment, we had a chance to win, but unfortunately we let this chance fly away. The majority of my team members are 18 years old and will be back next year.”
USA captain Will Magie said “In the first half we were lucky, our tries were scored from counterattacks. However, in the second half we made too many mistakes and allowed our opponent to take up the initiative. We still managed win and I am proud of my team for this.”