Tuesday, June 13, 2017

JWRT Hopes On Life Support After JAAs Fall To Canada

The Junior All-Americans have dug themselves a deep hole in their quest to qualify for the Junior World Rugby Trophy later this year. With a 46-12 loss to Canada in the first leg of their qualifying series the U.S. would need nothing short of a minor miracle to turn the result around on an aggregate score. For at least the first half the Junior All-Americans were in it before the more physical Canada pulled it out in the second half. The Junior All-Americans looked like a team that hasn't had much camp time together while Canada, who weren't perfect, looked like many of their players had played together at the provincial youth level.

Missing out on the JWRT would be a big blow to the Junior All-American program and U.S.A. Rugby. Unlike in past years this year's JWRT is set for the late summer which meant that many of the top college players in programs like Cal and St. Mary's were available. In past years qualifying often took place early in the year followed by the JWRT in April. There is not fall back for the team outside of the tournament. World Rugby provides the funds to attend the JWRT and with a money crunch and U.S.A. Rugby a separate tour seems unlikely.

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The Junior All-Americans started the match in very bright fashion with a try just a little over a minute into the match. They picked up an early penalty opportunity and rather than going for points chose a line out in the corner. The initial maul fell just short but a few quick phases later Life's Daemon Torres was there to pile over for the try. The conversion missed but the Americans led 5-0.

Unfortunately for the JAAs Canada did nearly the same thing just five minutes later when they used an attacking scrum to find their forwards to dive over. That try made it 10-10. A penalty on the JAAs for being in front of the kick on the restart gave Canada a scrum, an area they dominated all match. From that set piece they were able to find open space for yet another try. With less than 10 minutes played they were up 12-5. The U.S. had a shout for a try soon after from Lorenzo Thomas but it was judged by the assistant referee to have been lost forward.

With 25 minutes played Canada were able to extend their lead to 19-12. On a line out from roughly midfield Jake Thiel ran an excellent line to break the defense before feeding to his brother for the score. Thiel was outstanding all day and looks like a player that has a bright future for Canada.

The U.S. backs did look dangerous at times. They easily had more pace than their Canadian counterparts but time and time again their handling let them down at key moments. One time it didn't was about five minutes before the end of the first half. The U.S. backs were able to break out and the ball was fed to Malon Al-Jiboori who evaded a couple of defenders for the score. At halftime it was 19-12 for Canada.

The game really broke open in favor of Canada in the second half. Canada simply began to dominate possession and cut off American chances. The U.S. didn't really help themselves with errors either. First Canada picked ups  try five minutes in and then added a second about five minutes later. They continually added to their lead throughout the half leading to the lopsided loss. Had the U.S. been able to keep it close they would have given themselves a better shot in the second leg on Saturday.

A few players did stand out as positives for the Americans. Al-Jiboori was one of the best players on the pitch and you can tell his time with the Eagles 7s has paid dividends. Rodriguez was another player that caused a lot of problems for Canada. Other players looked like they could be something with more time.

The two teams will meet again on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. et/11:00 a.m. pt. It will once again be streamed on Rugby Canada's Facebook page. The U.S. will have to beat Canada by 35 in order to qualify for the JWRT.

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