Cima, AIG MJAAs finish sweep of Canada in Texas

ROUND ROCK, Texas - The USA Rugby AIG Men's Junior All-Americans followed their senior counterparts with a 19-18 defeat of Canada at Dell Diamond Saturday, cementing their place in this spring's World Rugby U20 Trophy.

Fly half Ben Cima nailed a last-second penalty goal from beyond midfield to propel the MJAAs to the win in what was a physical encounter between the border rivals. The victory ends a four-match losing streak to the neighbors in interim Head Coach JD Stephenson's first match at the helm of the under-20 national team.

"[The win] is a testament to the boys," the Lindenwood Director of Rugby said following the climactic end to the one-off U20 Trophy qualifier. "They're extraordinary leaders on and off of the pitch. We've been working on pressured scenarios all week and a lot of situational awareness."

Cima kicked off the scoring in the third minute of play, kicking his first of four penalties for a 3-0 lead to the All-Americans. Canada hit right back with a try in the corner from wing Trenton Cooper before the 10th minute, however, to take a 5-3 advantage.

The MJAAs received contributions from all over the pitch in the win, as efficient work in the breakdown and assured tackling on defence helped set up the boot of their fly half for a 9-5 lead in the 26th minute.

"We couldn't have picked a better group to represent the U.S.," Stephenson said after the match. "We couldn't have picked a better group of guys for what it stands for and who have pride in that jersey. It's just awesome."

A penalty goal attempt from midfield 10 minutes from the end of the first half fell short for Cima, and Canada's Robbie Povey cut into the lead with a kick of his own before Peter Milazzo dotted down in-goal on the stroke of halftime.

Scrum half Louis Mulholland looked to give his team the edge in the opening minutes of the second half, intercepting a pass at midfield. The MJAAs drew a penalty, but the combined distance and angle kept Cima from cutting into the 15-9 deficit.

The MJAAs got the ball back before the 48th minute, however, and capitalized on a five-meter lineout. Mulholland provided quick ball to Cima in front of the posts, and the fly half dummied his way towards the line before offloading to Lorenzo Thomas in contact for the center to dot down in-goal. Cima nailed the conversion to give the MJAAs a 16-15 lead with 30 minutes to play.

The teams traded errors and shots at goal in the remaining minutes of the second half, and Canada thought it had the last word with a successful penalty goal in the 76th minute. The MJAAs kept at it with ball in hand, and nearly crossed the try line in the 79th minute only to draw a penalty in the corner. Captain Hanco Germishuys pointed to the posts, but the touch-line attempt from Cima was just wide.

Unlike his 30th-minute attempt, the fly half made no mistake with the last play of the game.

"Ben controlled the ship well, used his foot effectively, and played smart rugby," Stephenson said of the young club player that was part of the Men's Eagles' Rugby World Cup 2015 training squad last year. "Sometimes he had us pulling our hair, but, ultimately, that's what good players do: they step up and they execute in the end when the game's on the line."

With the rivalry matchup behind them, the MJAAs will now turn their attentions to the U20 Trophy, the international tournament on which they missed out in 2015. To be held in Zimbabwe in the second half of April, the U20 Trophy field includes the host, Fiji, Hong Kong, Namibia, Samoa, Spain, and Uruguay.

"We'll break down the film and discuss the building blocks as we build towards the U20 Trophy now," Stephenson said. "This is just step one of our journey, and on to the next."

AIG Men's Junior All-Americans | v. Canada

1. Connor Cudeback

2. Steven Branham

3. Nick Kwasniewski

4. Sean Coleman

5. Malon Al-Jiboori

6. Uki Taumoefolau

7. Brennan Falcon

8. Hanco Germishuys (C)

9. Louis Mulholland

10. Ben Cima

11. Deion Mikesell

12. Brian Hannon

13. Lorenzo Thomas

14. Tyler Sousley

15. Mitchell Wilson

AIG Men's Junior All-Americans | Reserves

16. Zachary Haley

17. Chance Wenglewski

18. Mason Pedersen

19. Joshua Warnock

20. George Fotu

21. Ruben de Haas

22. Rodney Giles

23. Devin Lim

Canada | v. USA

1. Cali Martinez

2. Andrew Quattrin

3. Matt Tierney

4. Reegan O'Gorman

5. Conor Keys

6. Adrian Wadden

7. Nakai Penny

8. Luke Bradley

9. Cole Keffer

10. Robbie Povey

11. Theo Sauder

12. George Barton

13. Phil Berna

14. Trenton Cooper

15. Andrew Coe (C)

Canada | Reserves

16. Conor Sampson

17. Brendan Blaikie

18. Curtis Delmonico

19. Matt Beukeboom

20. Peter Milazzo

21. Keaton Porter

22. Mitch Richardson

23. Aaron Evison

AIG Men's Junior All-Americans | 19

Tries: Thomas

Conversions: Cima

Penalties: Cima (4)

Canada | 18

Tries: Cooper, Milazzo

Conversions: Povey

Penalties: Povey (2)

Discipline: Cooper (Yellow)

AIG Men's Junior All-Americans | Coaching Staff

JD Stephenson - Interim Head Coach

Justin Goonan - Strength and Conditioning & Skills Coach

Pete Borlase - Forwards Coach

James Walton - Video Analyst

Michael Engelbrecht - Backs Coach & Manager

David Fee - Skills Coach

Scott Lawrence - Technical Advisor

Kevin Battle - Skills Coach & Academy Manager