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The Men’s Junior All Americans will return to the Junior World Trophy following a thrilling 19-18 defeat of Canada Saturday at Dell Diamond in Round Rock, Texas. The Americans trailed 15-9 in the second half, letting multiple scoring opportunities go begging.
Flyhalf Ben Cima started the game three-for-three from the tee, including a 50-meter shot to open the game. He then missed three of his next four attempts, including a potential game winner with less than two minutes to play. However, one last penalty in the game’s dying minute proved fatal for Canada, as Cima boomed the winner through the uprights.
The win sends the MJAAs to the Junior World Trophy for the first time since 2014. They missed out on it last year, losing a two-game qualifier to Canada.
Following Cima’s opening penalty, a pair of American infringements found Canada with an attacking five-meter lineout and advantage with ball in hand. The Canadians moved it wide to Trenton Cooper, who snuck in on the corner to put Canada up 5-3 after 10 minutes.
In the 24th minute, Cima drilled his second penalty after a not-releasing call on a Canadian defender in a tackle. Seconds later he added another after a Canadian up-and-under shortly following the restart triggered an offside call, putting the USA up 9-5.
Cima went for another midfield shot at goal, this one about 15 meters from touch, and it came up short. Canada returned a clearance kick, giving the USA a lineout just outside its own 22. Steven Branham was pinged for balking the throw, reversing possession. The MJAA’s were offside on the free kick, and Canada’s flyhalf put three on the board, bringing the score to 9-8.
The Americans were under pressure in the scrum the entire first half, giving Canada a leg up on possession and field position. Right on halftime, lock Malon Al-Jiboori offloaded to flanker Uki Taumoefolau, but the pass didn’t find hands, and Canada scooped it up going forward. A borderline forward offload was gathered by Peter Milazzo, who dove over for Canada’s second try. The conversion attempt was successful, putting Canada up 15-9 going into the break.
Scrumhalf Louis Mulholland gave the USA some attacking possession with an interception early in the second half. A penalty at the breakdown a phase later gave Cima a fourth shot at goal, which he missed.
The MJAAs kicked another penalty to the corner and set up a maul from five meters out, but Canada was able to get its hands on the ball, forcing a turnover.
Another midfield Canadian penalty resulted in a five-meter attacking lineout thanks to the booming punt of Cima. The MJAAs won the ball but dropped the jumper. Nonetheless, the ball went wide from 10 meters out, and Cima took a half gap and offloaded to outside center Lorenzo Thomas for the try. Cima converted, putting the Americans up 16-15.
A scary collision occurred on the ensuing restart, as a Canadian winger took Germishuys’ legs out from under him while he was trying to take the ball in the air. The play resulted in a penalty and yellow card for Canada, and the American captain was able to continue on.
Later, Thomas made a break for the try line after a few dummy runners caught the attention of the Canadian defense, but he was dragged down a few meters shy. Al-Jiboori was held up a phase later. After the ensuing scrum, Al-Jiboori was held up again. After a collapsed Canadian scrum, resulting in a penalty, the MJAAs chose to pack down again, and Al-Jiboori was held up once more.
Canada was able to clear the danger eventually, and a pair of American penalties resulted in a shot at goal in the 64th minute that could have provided the go-ahead points, but it sailed wide right. In the 75th minute, Canada made good on another shot at goal, taking the 18-16 lead.
The American forwards then went to work, poaching ball and inching it toward the try line. A penalty was won on the touch line about five meters out with less than two minutes to play, and captain Germishuys elected for posts. Cima’s kick was no good, seemingly sinking the MJAAs.
After the 22-meter drop, the Americans earned yet another penalty, giving Cima one last shot at the game winner. This one came about 35 meters out from the try line in the middle third of the pitch. With time elapsed, it sailed through the uprights, giving the MJAAs the win.