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The USA U20s defeated Zimbabwe 30-29 Sunday in Tbilisi, Georgia to finish 7th in the Junior World Rugby Trophy.

The game was close throughout, as the USA and the speedy Zimbabweans traded scores all afternoon.

Fullback Joe Cowley opened the scoring early with a penalty goal, but Zimbabwe pulled ahead ten minutes in when flyhalf Sean Linfield scored and converted his own try for a 7-3 Zimbabwe lead.

The Junior All Americans replied with a try from Dan Metcalf to make it 10-7 USA, and then Bubba Jones made it 15-7 with halftime approaching. But Tatenda Chikaka’s score and Linfield’s conversion pulled Zimbabwe within a point at 15-14 just before the break.

It was just as tense in the second period. The USA pulled away to 20-14 with wing Apelu So’oalo’s try two minutes into the second half, but the defenses clamped down after that. Zimbabwe put on some pressure and Linfield lined up two penalties to try to draw closer, but missed them both. Still Zimbabwe did close the gap when wing Justin Coles scored to make it 20-19.

Once again the Americans rebounded; at 28 minutes prop Paul Mullen trundled over to put the score at 27-19 with Cowley’s conversion. That kick would be crucial as Zimbabwe were left to rue missed kicks. Sub back Charles Jiji hit a penalty which Cowley duplicated to make it 30-22 with time winding down.

Zimbabwe struck with a minute to go as No. 8 Takudzwa Mandiwanza crossed the line and, with Jiji’s conversion, made it 30-29. But Zimbabwe didn’t have enough time to do more, and the Americans held on.

USA U20s 30
Tries: Metcalf, Jones, So’oalo, Mullen
Convs: Cowley 2
Pens: Cowley 2

Zimbabwe U20s 29
Tries: Linfield, Chikaka, Coles, Mandiwanza
Convs: Linfield 2, Jiji
Pens: Jiji