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USA U20s Come Back from 18-7 Down to Beat Canada

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USA U20s Come Back from 18-7 Down to Beat Canada

Tito Edjua on his way. Photo USA Rugby.

The USA U20s defeated the Canada U20s 33-18 Saturday in a comeback victory at Shawnigan Lake School on Vancouver Island.

The Junior Eagles opened the game with a try and had some further scoring opportunities in the first half, but they squandered those chances. That eventually led to the Canadians slotting two penalty goals and keeping the USA under pressure thanks to a stronger scrum and more penalties by the visitors.

All of that culminated in a for Canada late in the first half, and another early in the second half to make it 18-7.

Things went from bad to worse for the USA when center Dom Besag was yellow-carded. But somehow they managed to weather being shorthanded and, in fact, just after Besag returned to the field, mauled it over for a try. That made it a one-score game at 18-14.  

After that, the game flowed the USA's way. Even with Canada being stronger in the scrum and handling the mauls well, the Americans started to find opportunities. They opted for tap penalty moves and did well enough in the lineout to launch. Some strategic substitutions, including Major League Rugby player Seth Smith (Houston) at hooker and Central Washington's Oliver Cline in the backs and to kick for goal, brought dividends.

The USA found they could exploit Canada out wide for speed, thanks in large part to some snappy passing, and the tries started to come. A brilliant chip from Cline out to wing Tito Edjua put the Brown University wing in at the corner and push the USA ahead 19-18. With another man in the bin they tested Canada on the right side and then close in Besag somehow controlled a difficult ball and slapped it out to fullback Corbin Smith, who scored in the corner. Good numbers on the outside put Smith in for his second, and suddenly the USA led 33-18.

That's how it ended, and these two teams meet again June 6 to complete the series. Aggregate score decides who goes to the Junior World Trophy in Scotland later this year. 

Matthew Bennett's kicking for Canada was very good.

"The bounce of the ball helped us," said USA U20 Head Coach Neeths Gericke about the comeback. "Our reserves that came on; I think that the guys who are supposed to finish the game actually made a massive impact."