Dublin-Ireland, June 19, 2012: On an exciting first day of the Junior World Rugby Trophy in Utah on Monday, home team USA under 20s made a successful late charge for victory to register the first upset of the tournament in front of a full house at Murray Rugby Park, Salt Lake City.
Behind on the scoreboard by two points with 10 minutes left, the Americans scored two late tries as Tonga tired in the evening sunshine. A final score of 22-11 was somewhat flattering to the US as Tonga competed well throughout the game but the crucial moment came with 15 minutes remaining when a lengthy fracas erupted on the stand side.
When the dust settled, and referee Mauro Rivera had consulted with his assistant, Tonga’s replacement Teniela Vakuata was sent to the sin-bin and blindside flanker Michael Faleafa was shown red to leave the Pacific Islanders down to 13 men.
And the USA made that advantage count where it matters most with full-back Madison Hughes and hooker Cameron Falcon crossing for tries in the dying moments of the game.
But despite the drama of that final match, the game of the day turned out to the very first one, with Japan scoring a last-second try to seal victory over a brave and creative Zimbabwe team in a 39-36 thriller. With only four minutes left, Zimbabwe captain and fly-half Sean Linfield had kicked a penalty to put his side two points ahead.
In the midst of the Africans’ jubilation they seemed to think it was all over. But Japan had other ideas and, regaining possession shortly after the restart, they patiently applied the pressure until Zimbabwe cracked and replacement Yutaro Murai went over in the corner.
In the other two games, Chile proved too strong for Russia in game two of the day, running out 53-19 winners, despite a strong performance by a tough Russian pack. And Georgia showed enormous strength of body and mind to keep out a tenacious Canada team. The east Europeans finally won out 31-17 and will take on Zimbabwe in the next round, which takes place on Friday.
Round Two, Friday June 22 (all times are local)
Murray Rugby Park, Salt Lake City
Georgia v Zimbabwe, 12.00; Japan v Canada, 14.00; Tonga v Russia, 16.00; USA v Chile, 18.00
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