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32 Junior All American hopefuls capped off a weekend camp Monday with a pair of scrimmages against Lindenwood in chilly St. Charles, Mo. The Lions took both matches, winning the first 19-17 and the second 26-17.
The gathering was the second in as many months for the MJAAs, who are preparing for a one-off Junior World Trophy qualifying match Feb. 13 in Austin, Texas. The winner advances to participate in the JWT April 19-May 1 in Zimbabwe. Interim U20s coach and Lindenwood head man JD Stephenson and his staff will review tape from the assembly and pick the squad for the Canada clash.
“In the past three years I’ve been playing with the U20s, I think this is the better group among those three years. We did very well for just being together for two days. I think we’re going to give it to Canada when the time comes,” said flanker Hanco Germishuys, who missed the December camp to participate in the Taranaki Academy in New Zealand.
“In previous years when we played teams, it was just a blowout and nobody was confident going into the games. Talking to these guys before the game they were just all confident and ready to go into the game, and we brought our game and showed it.”
Indiana freshman Brian Hannon scored to open the U20s account in the opening game, and freshman flyhalf Tadhg Leader replied to put Lindenwood on the board.
The ensuing kickoff was a deep one, and one of the Lions knocked it on. Life’s Duncan Van Schalkwyk, who spelled an injured Ruben de Haas, darted in off the back of the attacking scrum, putting the U20s up 12-5.
Lindenwood scrumhalf Michael Baska then dove in off a quick tap to level the table. The move started from a scrum halfway up the field, and a clever set play put the Lions on the front foot. The score would be tied 12-12 going into the break.
The second half was less fruitful, with a couple of skirmishes and some blown opportunities slowing down the flow of the game. Eventually, it would be a conversion separating the teams. The U20s got a second try from the midfield at the onset of the second stanza, and Lindenwood’s Sebastian Kalm crashed over off a free kick following a point-blank scrum later on. The successful Lion conversion took the win.
The second game saw mostly new 15s take the field for both teams. The Lions took a big lead early, with Jack Huckstepp stepping through a missed tackle in the midfield for a try, flanker Brandon Chalker taking back an intercept try, and Matias Kalm offloading to scrumhalf Giovanni Falco for a third score.
In the midst of that flurry, MJAA wing William Fifita bowled over a couple of LU defenders for a try, leading to a halftime score of 21-5.
Santa Barbara City College’s Hayden Potgieter scored a brace of tries in the second half, but a mishandled kick by MJAA wing Deion Mikesell resulted in a Lindenwood score, bringing the final tally to 26-17 in favor of LU.
The results, ultimately, bear no significance, but it was a good opportunity for the coaches to get film on their players and for the MJAAs to run together. And it was enough to pump some confidence into a program that hasn’t won a game in a while.
“We’re ready. We’ve been talking about it all this camp, and we’re ready to show them last year was their time and their weather and this is our time now,” said Germishuys of rival Canada. “It’s our time to shine, and we want to get back to that Junior World Trophy so we can take it.”