Saturday, February 13, 2016

Cima's Last Minute Kick Qualifies U.S. For JWRT

With just a minute remaining in the match and a spot in the Junior World Rugby Trophy on the line Ben Cima stepped up to hit a penalty. He missed. However, showing great character Cima shrugged off that effort and hit a 55 meter penalty as time expired to give the U.S. a 19-18 win over Canada and a trip to Zimbabwe. Cima was the hero of the match for the Junior All-Americans as he repeated stepped up in big moments, especially with his boot. For a team that missed out on the JWRT last year and didn't look that great in the process it was sweet redemption that they were able to do the deed this year. Full credit to interim head coach JD Stephenson and his staff for getting the result with not much time together as a team.

Cima would put the U.S. up first with a 50 meter penalty after Canada put their opening kick out on the full but after that it would be Canada with most of the possession and territory. Eventually that would be rewarded. Using solid phase play and working the ball out to their backs they found Trent Cooper for the try. The conversion missed but Canada led 5-3.

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Like the men's team earlier in the evening the U.S. had handling troubles at times that gave Canada opportunities but the defense held firm. Eventually the Junior All-Americans had a chance to score just a few meters short of the line but it was knocked on.

Cima would pick up two more penalties in the 22nd and 25th minutes to extend the lead to 9-5. The first came after Deion Mikesell did well to chase a Cima downfield kick to put the Canadian player into touch. The second came after Louis Mulholland, who also had a nice match, saved what would have been a sure knock-on. Cima almost added a three penalty during this stretch but his angled penalty from 50 meters was off.

Fly-half Robbie Povey would hit a penalty for Canada to get them back within one. Canada then took the lead with not much time left in the half. The U.S. looked to break out after winning the ball at the breakdown but an ill-advised offload allowed Canada to pounce and run for the try from Peter Milazzo. At the break Canada led 15-9.

The U.S. did their best to come back early in the second half. Cima had another attempt at goal but it was off. Still, the Junior All-Americans kept coming and found themselves in strong attacking territory. After some work from the forwards the ball was sent out to Cima who dummied the defense before finding the supporting Lorenzo Thomas for the try. With the conversion the U.S. were in front 16-15.

Both teams fought hard for the next 20 minutes with each having several opportunities. Canada nearly re-took the lead in the 64th minute but Povey's attempt was off. Canada also had a breakaway but their final pass went into touch.

With five minutes to go the match went to another level. The U.S. was penalized at the line out, and area they had trouble with all match whether it was an overthrow or a penalty, and Povey stepped up to hit the penalty. With just a few minutes left Canada led 18-16.

Credit to the Junior All-Americans. Sensing the urgency they continued to push and nearly scored on a couple of occasions. With just about two minutes to go Cima had an opportunity that he missed. However, he came up heroic as he hit a 55 meter penalty with no time left to life the Junior All-Americans to the JWRT.

The program will now turn their focus to the JWRT where they will join Hong Kong, hosts Zimbabwe, Namibia, Uruguay, Spain, Fiji, and Samoa. 

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