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The USA U20s capped off their camp in Seattle with a game against Seattle-Old Puget Sound Beach Sunday morning in Bellevue, Wash.
This was a game with open subs, but was played with high intensity.
Seattle-OPSB fielded most, if not all, of their top players at some point,
so the U20s got to face the likes of capped Eagles Lou Stanfill and John
Cullen, and well as Eagle hopefuls Matt Trouville, TC Elliott, and Mike
Shepherd. In the backs, capped 7s or 15s Eagles such as Mike Palefau,
Shalom Suniula, and Miles Craigwell suited up with all-time England 7s star
So it was a packed and tough OPSB team to face the Junior All Americans who, most observers felt, would struggle to match the older players' physicality.
But in the early going the U20s held sway. With Ollie Drew, Ben Pinkelman, and Hanco Germishuys redoubtable in the pack and Ben Cima controlling the attack well at flyhalf, the U20s went up 20-7 in the first half. Eric Thompson and Niall Barry - both UCLA players - were very good at scrumhalf and fullback, respectively, while Valdemar Lee-Lo battled hard in the front row, where the U20s were probably most outmatched for experience and power.
As the subs rolled in, the tide turned late, and Seattle-OPSB punished some U20 mistakes to run in enough tries to win something like 35-28.
"Our expectations were exceeded," said OPSB's Stanfill. "They played well. We tried to field a team that would allow some of our starter players to get a rest and we proved we're not quite there as far as depth goes. The U20s performed quite well and exploited that. We knew that these kids certainly weren't here to just have a game. They have something to prove as a representative side, and they did a good job answering that bell."
Later as the two teams met, Stanfill repeated his compliments to the U20s and also told them that when they play in the Junior World Rugby Trophy in Hong Kong in April, to "represent the USA with class on the field, but more importantly off the field."
Seattle-OPSB Head Coach Justin Fitzpatrick was in an interesting position in that he had been working with the U20s all weekend, helping them work on their ball retention and forward work in tight. But at the same time he was coaching his men's team.
"I thought it was a good game and I was really pleased to see the kids play so well, especially in the first half," said Fitzpatrick. "We wanted to give them a real contest and we did."
Billy Millard, U20s Head Coach, has had precious little time to assemble a team and get it match ready. He wanted to find an on-field challenge for the squad, and he did.
"It was very rushed," Millard said. "We've come together very late and we've touched on most things, but we've still got a lot of work to do. But it was great having this hit-out. We came up here because we wanted to play the strongest team; Fitzy tells me it's them, so here we are. We didn't know how strong a team they planned to put out, but it was really eye-opening to see these young kids. They showed no fear, executed a few things under pressure. I am really proud of the players, and thankful to Seattle and Serevi and Fitzy for having us."
This game provided some priceless experience for the players as they faced up against some internationals and recent Collegiate All Americans, and handled it.
"It gives us something to really talk about in Hong Kong," said Millard. "As a team you need to hang your hat on something and this is something we can hang out hat on and move on from there."
"We felt pretty comfortable," added Cima. "I thought in that first half we went at it really well and it was good to see guys playing to that level."
USA U20s Seattle Camp
Player - Position - Current Team
Alex Augsburg Wing Lindenwood University
Niall Barry Center UCLA
Zac Bonte Flanker UCLA
Ben Cima Flyhalf Gonzaga HS
Scott Dean Fullback Central Washington University
Oliver Drew Lock Bournemouth UK
Tyler Enfield Lock Central Washington University
Gabe Farley Center Lindenwood
James Gannon Prop Spring Hill College
Hanco Germishuys Flanker West Side (Va)
Connor Gleason Lock AIC
Myles Godfrey Prop Lindenwood
Seth Halliman Center Glendale
Codi Jones Hooker Cal Maritime
Joe Kelly Center Penn State
Peter Malcolm Flanker Wheeling Jesuit
Ben Pinkelman Lock Colorado State
Nemia Qoro Center Peninsula Green
Lindsay Stevens Hooker UL Bohemians (Irelands)
Eric Thompson Scrumhalf UCLA
Vili Toluta'u Flanker Central Washington University
James Vaifale Wing Tempe
Valdemar Lee-Lo Prop Sierra
Connor Wallace-Sims Wing Canterbury RFC (UK)
Christian Weisling Lock Glendale
Joseph Whalen Lock St. Joseph's