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The Men’s Junior All Americans fell 40-39 to Namibia Tuesday in Harare, Zimbabwe to start the Junior World Trophy 0-1. The game was a cruel reversal of the USA’s dramatic win over Canada to qualify for the competition, as Namibia was aided some by questionable penalties to win on the last play of the game.
The Americans can definitely look at themselves to find blame in the loss, as several scoring opportunities went begging throughout the game.
The MJAAs struggled with indiscipline early, conceding multiple penalties at the breakdown in the opening several minutes. That led to Namibia getting on the board first via a point-blank lineout after they were able to punt the ball down the field due to American infractions. The conversion made it 7-0 to Namibia.
The Americans were able to respond in short order. With a mid-range kickoff and line speed putting Namibia under pressure, a bobbled ball wound up in the hands of MJAA prop Chance Wenglewski, giving the Americans attacking possession. Hanco Germishuys shucked off a couple of would-be tacklers during a powerful surge, and Louis Mulholland dove over from inches out. Ben Cima converted, putting the USA up 7-5.
Namibia struggled all game to contain the USA’s hard chargers, like Germishuys and blindside flanker Malon Al-Jiboori. But the MJAAs struggled to grab low hanging fruit, getting held up, running through the try zone and having a try disallowed for obstruction all in the first half.
The elusive first try would come after an attacking lineout. The set play went awry with a short-armed pass hitting the floor, but Cima was able to tap it back to a streaking Mitch Wilson, who grounded the ball this time. Cima’s conversion attempt careened off the upright – 12-5.
Namibia then displayed some power running of their own, barreling over for a try near the posts. The conversion put the Americans down two. Germishuys continued to channel his inner-battering ram off an attacking lineout not long after, punching in his first score of the game to reclaim the lead. Cima’s conversion added to it – 19-14 – which is how the half would end.
Germishuys’ second try came seconds into the second half. The Americans put pressure on Namibia with a deep kickoff and a strong chase, charging down an attempted clearance kick. Deven Marshall picked up the ball and Germishuys dove over a phase later, putting the USA up 24-14.
Swapped tries in the middle third of the second half, with Namibia converting and the USA not, saw the score at 29-21. Germishuys secured the hat-trick in the exchange.
Namibia cut the lead in with a try from a tough-running lock off a lineout play in the 62nd minute. He peeled around the set piece and caught a pop pass before running through an arm tackle from Cima for a try. Converted, it cut the deficit to one.
A Namibian penalty saw the Americans with an attacking lineout in the 65th minute. They won it, and after several phases of creeping up to the try line, Al-Jiboori caught a pop pass and plunged in for the score. Wing Rodney Giles slotted the conversion, pushing the USA up eight at 36-28.
Wilson, who had run out the back of the try zone in the opening half, knocked on five meters short of a score late in the second half, too. Had he gotten in, the USA would have claimed a two-try lead. Instead, Namibia cleared its lines thanks to some indiscipline on the behalf of the Americans.
Namibia snapped right back into it once in the attacking end, with some flashy back play linking offloads together and apparently resulting in a try. However, one of them was deemed forward by an assistant referee, resulting in the score being brought back. The Africans kept up the carefree passing, and it paid off in short order as a wing snuck under an Al-Jiboori tackle in the corner after a series of low-percentage dishes connected.
The touch line conversion was missed, leaving the USA up three. Shortly after the kickoff, Giles slotted a penalty to extend the lead to more than a try at 39-33.
The MJAAs won the restart and tried to milk the clock with pick-and-jams but were called for diving over. They turned the ball over and the same thing happened again. This time Namibia had to run it from its own end, which it did successfully to get in the attacking end. A phase later an inside line against a scrambling American defense saw Namibia score under the posts, and convert easily, to win the match at the death.
Tries: Germishuys (3), Al-Jiboori, Mulholland, Wilson
Cons: Cima (2), Giles