The USA Men's U20 Junior All-America team faced Russia in their second match of pool play in the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy on Saturday morning in Tbilisi, Georgia. Unfortunately, the American's lost the match, but the scoreline of 42-36 brought about a fast-paced and thrilling match of rugby.
The U.S. team found themselves in a hole early on when the Russian scrum half German Godlyuk nailed a penalty kick from the U.S. 22 meter line, another penalty kick brought the score to 6-0 in the twelfth minute. Just six minutes after the pk the Russians took advantage of poor American tackling and scored their first try of the match. The conversion made the score 13-0 in Russia's favor only 18 minutes in.
The American's first twenty minutes of the match were characterized by poor ball handling that led to no continuity in their attack, therefore the Russian defense was able to reset and quickly come up to meet the American attack.
It was not until the 21st minute that the U.S. was able to get on the board. The young American team was able to get the ball out wide to 11, Madison Hughes, who made a nice step inside and was able to offload from the ground to a breaking Michael Oliver who easily scored the try to make it 13-5. Joe Cowley made his first conversion of the day to bring the score to 13-7.
The Russian team was able to show good composure when they answered back fairly quickly on a beautiful run and offload by German Godlyuk to fullback Dennis Simplikevich. The fullback's second try brought the score to 18-7, followed by German Godlyuk's conversion that brought it to 20-7 with 13 minutes left in the first half.
The U.S. was able to add three more points on the leg of Joe Cowley before the close of the half to make the score 20-10.
The American U20's side got off to another slow start in the second half that did not help their case for a victory. The Russians were able to handily control the ball and quickly push into American territory. After a nice pin and pass from the Russian outside center, Evgeny Kornev, the fullback, Dennis Simplikevich, was able to power his way through American arm tackles to record his third try. The hat trick and the conversion brought the score to 27-10 only four minutes into the second half.
The American team was facing a rapidly growing deficit that was getting close to unbearable. Luckily they were able to swiftly answer back. A Russian penalty gave the U.S. a quick tap where they were able to move it outside to Will Farrell who made a lovely offload from the ground to a crashing Bubba Jones who scampered into the try zone. After Joe Cowley made the conversion the score was 27-17 after 48 minutes.
The U.S. team was quickly barraged by the Russians who brought the ball down to the U.S. try line; but after a dropped ball the U.S. was able counter attack. Joe Cowley sent it out wide to Bubba Jones who made a delightful dummy fake and carried the ball 60 meters before offloading to Madison Hughes in support. The try between the posts gave Joe Cowley an easy conversion that brought the score to 27-24 in Russia's favor, 52 minutes in.
Russia was able to score just six minutes after the American try and re-extend their lead to ten with a score of 34-24 in the 58th minute.
The next American try opportunity came when Russia committed a penalty in the scrum that allowed the U.S. to play a quick tap and swing pass to fullback Joe Cowley who ran the ball with a purpose through multiple Russian defenders on his way to the try zone. His conversion after the try brought the score to 34-31 in the 62nd minute.
This would be the last time the American's got close to the lead. The Russians were able to score a try and a penalty kick that brought the score to 42-31 with under ten minutes to play.
In the 78th minute flyhalf and captain, Will Magie scored a try in the corner from an offload by Madison Hughes. Joe Cowley missed the conversion, keeping the score forever at 42-36 in favor of Russia.
The entire 80 minute match saw very little stoppage in action. Both squads fought very hard throughout the match and it easily could have gone both ways.
The U.S. will face Uruguay next on June 1. The match can be viewed streaming live at http://www.irb.com/jwrt/video/index.html.