USA edge past Georgia in Juniors

(IRB.COM) Friday 11 April 2014
 
 USA edge past Georgia in Juniors
USA are the only side with two wins from two at JWRT 2014 - Photo: Power Sport Images for HKRFU

The USA narrowly kept their unbeaten record intact after holding off a brave challenge from Georgia to emerge with a 13-12 victory in their Pool A encounter at the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy in Hong Kong on Friday.

South African-born openside flanker Hanco Germishuys scored the only try in a closely-fought encounter at the Hong Kong Football Club between the two unbeaten sides in the pool.

“It was very close, too close for comfort,” admitted a relieved Germishuys afterwards. “But we knew it would be close. We expected Georgia to be the hardest team for us in this tournament. They put a lot of pressure on us but the ball was also slippery and that led to a number of handling errors. But following this performance, we are confident we can go all the way.

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Following their opening 37-0 win over hosts Hong Kong, the USA are the only team to have own both their matches in the tournament and will be favourites to top the pool and reach what for them would be a third JWRT final. 

Georgia and Tonga are not out of the race for top spot just yet, though, and sit four points behind the USA, the latter having beaten Hong Kong 36-19. The battle is equally tight in Pool B with Japan leading the way with seven points, just one ahead of Namibia and Uruguay.

The winner of the Trophy will be promoted to the IRB Junior World Championship 2015 in Italy.

USA and Georgia had been locked at 6-6- at half time after fly halves Ben Cima and Revaz Jinchvelashvili traded penalties, although the American would have been ruing three missed kicks. Jinchvelashvili added two early penalties in the second half, but Georgia’s momentum was derailed when they lost forward Zhora Mgebrishvili to the sin-bin for a late tackle.

A man down, Georgia’s defence cracked under the pressure and Germishuys threaded his way through a number of tackles to score under the posts and give Cima a straightforward conversion to put the USA ahead by point.

“It was really disappointing to let slip a 12-6 lead in a tight game like this,” said Georgia assistant coach Lado Kilasonia. “We didn’t do what should have been done which was to play the game in their half and we made too many silly mistakes. This is a good lesson for us.”

The other Pool A match saw Tonga bounce back from an opening defeat to Georgia to beat their hosts Hong Kong 39-16. Tonga’s physical running style was too hot for Hong Kong to handle and they conceded five tries with centre Samiuela Tupou, full back Sunita Fihaki, prop Viliami Lefai, second row Shannon Frizzell and wing Jarom Halo all dotting down.

Hong Kong’s solitary try was scored by centre Theo Rolston with wing Kevin Field adding the conversion and three penalties in an error-ridden match.

Still in the mix for final

In the opening match on day two, Japan bounced back from their opening loss to Uruguay to edge to a nervy 34-28 victory over Namibia in Pool B. The third seeds had battled back from a 14-0 deficit to trail by two at half-time after tries from centre Keisuke Moriya and number 8 Sota Oketani. 

After the break, the dangerous Japanese backline quickly found its rhythm to add three more tries in the second half and keep their noses in front of a never-say-die Namibian outfit that had stunned Canada in their opening encounter.

Tries from centre Yuki Okada, wing Shuhei Narita and full back Seiya Ozaki allowed the Asian champions to stay in front despite their opponents twice making it a one-point match.

“We came back strongly in the second half but small errors cost us, as did our inability to convert those 50-50 chances,” said disappointed Namibian captain Awie Thompson.

Barnstorming Namibia number 8 Wian Conradie scored the try of the match when he shrugged off three tacklers to cover 30 metres and score under the posts in the second half. This added to a first-half try from wing Reinold Benade and three penalties from fly half Chris Arries.

Conradie’s cover defence was also outstanding as he pulled off a try-saving tackle on Narita midway through the second half. But despite a second-half try from flanker Immo Dresselhaus, Namibia couldn’t quite pull off a second upset. They remain upbeat though about winning the tournament.

“Our goal is to make the finals and win this tournament. We are still in with a shout with the last match (against Uruguay) going to be decisive. It is a shame we couldn’t win our second game on the trot but I think this pool will be decided on points difference,” Thompson said.

Japan coach Keisuke Sawaki added: “We played much better today, especially in our set-play and our forwards. Our players were more energetic and had more passion than in our first match. The forwards stepped up today and that was the reason why we won.”

Last-gasp try for Canada

The final match of the day went right down to the wire with a last-gasp try from wing Charles Debove helping second seeds Canada to escape with an 18-18 draw against Uruguay.

A finely poised encounter throughout, Uruguay had taken a narrow 8-7 lead into the break after number 8 Emiliano Correa’s try cancelled out an effort by his opposite number Matt Mullins. Canada fly half Adam McQueen added the conversion while his Uruguayan counterpart Manuel Blengio’s penalty gave his side the lead. 

Canada replied early after the break with a McQueen penalty to lead 10-8, only to fall behind again minutes later when replacement scrum half Diego Ardao scored Uruguay’s second try, Matias Pla adding the conversion.

McQueen’s second penalty of the half brought Canada back to within two before Pla increase the South American champions’ lead with a penalty of his own, giving Uruguay what seemed like a comfortable margin of 18-13 in an attacking position with only minutes left on the clock. 

However, sustained pressure and Canadian grit saw them claw their way up the pitch to score a try in the final minute. Debove’s late try salvaged a draw for the second-seeded Canadians after McQueen’s conversion drifted wide, leaving his side still searching for their first win.

The JWRT 2008 champions had beaten Japan 33-28 in their opening encounter and looked on course for another win as they led with the seconds ticking away, but Debove’s late try robbed them of what would have been a well-deserved victory.

The pool stages draw to a close on Tuesday with Georgia tackling Hong Kong at 13:00 local time and USA facing Tonga at 15:00 in Pool A,  before Uruguay meet Namibia at 17:00 and Canada face Japan at 19:00.