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A 95-Minute Mentaly Drives USA U20s

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A 95-Minute Mentaly Drives USA U20s

Corbin Smith evades a tackler. Photo Ewan Bootman SNS Group.

The word of caution is that the USA U20 men have not arrived; there is still work to do.

Yes the Junior Eagles beat Netherlands; yes they beat Uruguay; yes their next opponent, Kenya, is 0-2; all of that is true. But expecting the Kenya game to be a foregone conclusion isn't smart.

Looking back on the USA's 32-15 defeat of Uruguay, we can see that the Americans had some serious scoring chances in the first half, and couldn't convert. So yes there were some things they needed to do to finish off chances, but it was also clear that they could get into scoring position.

A snappy little cross kick from Ollie Cline almost produced a try and some aggressive running and good ball movement also came close to producing a try.

"We were a little bit frustrated to be honest," Head Coach Neeths Gericke told GRR. "We were not really capitalizing. But we were getting into scoring position and we knew what the fix was."

And the fix came in the second half. Much of that was ensuring they play in the right areas of the field—two 50-22s from Cline, both right out of the top drawer, helped a lot and led to points each time. They focused on defense, forcing a couple og key penalties but, more importantly, making tackles, reorganizing, and making Uruguay work for it.

"With the ball we were more accurate in the breakdown and we cleared out better," added Gericke. "We know we've got some electric backs, and all we needed to do was be patient, play in the right areas of the field, and then let then show that ability."

And that's what happened. Both wings scored. Keeland Farrell showed he's not just a finisher, as he can tackle and bust through contact, but his try was still impressive. Farrell has five tries in the tournament so far, which is tied for second most in the World Trophy with Kenshin Shimizu and Kent Iioka of Japan, and also tied with Joris Smith of Netherlands. Leading the way is Scotland's Finlay Doyle, who has scored a hat trick in both Scottish wins for a total of six.

Overall in the game Gericke was pleased with the team's tactical kicking, and while he felt their reputation preceded them in the scrum, they held their own.

"We were able to get some clarity on the officiating, which was good," said Gericke. "The boys are feeding off each other and working well with each other. The guys kicking for goal have worked hard on their craft and with that we know we can score points. So the boys are making good decisions and we see that if the points are there, we can take them."

And above all of that is the right mentality within the team. They acknowledged that they let the foot off the gas against Netherlands, and the players said that taking a break during a long, 15-minute halftime kind of took away their momentum.

"We have to push ourselves to be better," said Gericke. "We had 40 minutes of good footy against Netherlands and 40 minutes of not good 40. Switching off, taking a break, at halftime hurt us so we talk now about a 95-minute mentality. We need to be on and switched on for 95 minutes, including halftime, and that really helped us against Uruguay."

The mentality is also a bit of a win-or-go-home approach. Gericke said they aren't thinking about pool play, because to win the World Rugby U20 Trophy you pretty much have to run the table. So the first game was really a Round of 16 game, and the second pool match was a quarterfinal. The next game against Kenya is to all intents and purposes a semifinal. Win and you're in the final. Lose and who knows? 

"We can't look at the record of our opponent; we can't worry about the score or get comfortable. We have been problem-solving well and adapting. We know what we're capable of."