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The United States Boys Youth Olympians finally found their stride. After going 0-5 in pool-play, which included a 23-10 loss to Japan, the Americans defeated the Japanese 29-12. They illustrated excellent 7s and can comfortably end the Youth Olympic Games on a high note.
From the first minute of the match USA was attacking in Japan’s half. Captain Hanco Germishuys went into contact, being brought down at the five-meter line, and popped to Suwaiter Poch, who scored in the corner. After the following kickoff, Germishuys picked up an errant pass by the United States, broke a tackle, and ran 25 meters for the try. The rampage continued about a minute later with some fancy footwork by Aaron Matthews, who touch down under the posts. Junior Helu converted to bring the US ahead 17-0. Immediately after the next kickoff, however, poor US defense and a Japanese obstruction penalty dismissed by the referee led to a Japanese try. The United States went into halftime with a 17-7 lead.
Early in the second half Vili Helu broke a tackle, then offloaded to Junior Helu, who scored under the posts and converted his own try for a 24-7 lead. The American demolition prolonged as Germishuys gathered the ensuing kickoff and dove into the corner of the ingoal for the try. Japan returned the following kickoff for an eighty-meter try, however, the Team USA still held on for the 29-12 victory. “Our game against Japan showed us that if we put the pieces together and play for fourteen minutes we can be a competitive team,” says USA prop Malcolm May. Germishuys adds, “In the last game against Japan we spread the ball out wide. If we did that in our first four games we would have put ourselves in a position to win all of those games.” From a spectators’ point of view, it was phenomenal to watch the growth of the American team.
After a disappointing start to the Youth Olympic Games, the American boys were able to end their experience on a high note. They took 5th place in the pool certainly improved as the games went on. They faced intense adversity with the amount of injured they encountered, but kept working and ended with a victory over Japan.
The USA players were extremely positive about their experience in Nanjing. “We have grown a lot as a team in the month that we have had together,” says USA scrumhalf Brian Hannon. “Salty Thompson and Ben Gollings are both great coaches that were able to make this happen. Although we didn’t reach our goal of a medal, we played every game with full pride in the USA.”
Team Manager Salty Thompson had a critical role in selecting the USA squad for the games. Additionally, Thompson’s coaching abilities were also put into use as Head Coach Ben Gollings was not given access to enter the Olympic Village for several critical practices due to some administrative tasks that were not taken care of beforehand. “I think this win over Japan is along overdue,” says Team Manager Salty Thompson. “We put pieces of our game together, we have had our moments, we were in games, and we had opportunities to beat Fiji and Kenya. I think by today we began to realize that we need to work collectively as a team to get a result.”
Gollings also reflected on the experience: “I think it has been a brilliant opportunity for those of use involved. Rugby has been great, the venues have been great, and the village has been great. For us as a team, this event has been a big learning curve. There are some good teams out there. But, in the end of the day the boys stuck together and put in a great performance at the end. Hopefully what they take out of this is the experience and they can learn from it.”
The competition for the USA Boys at the Youth Olympic Games is now over. They will spend the remainder of their time cheering on their USA teammates, attending cultural events, and enjoying the Opening Ceremonies. Ending the competition with a win should definitely make the rest of their stay much more enjoyable.
In the other matches, #1 seeded Argentina defeated Kenya 19-12 to advance into the Gold Medal match against France. France demolished Fiji in the semifinals, who will play Kenya tomorrow for Bronze.
Match Venue: Olympic Sports Park
Game Time: 4:00 PM
Match Score: USA 29 – 12 Japan
#1: Jojo Tikoisuva
#2: Sione Masoe
#6: Hanco Germishuys
#9: Junior Helu
#11: Aaron Matthews
#5: Malcolm May
#3: Suwaiter Poch
#10: Brian Hannon
#8: Vili Helu
#4: Austin Taefu
#12: Cian Barry
#7: Tyler Sousley