Spain stifles AIG MJAAs’ bid for U20 Trophy Final

HARARE, Zimbabwe - The AIG Men's Junior All-Americans will play for fifth at the World Rugby U20 Trophy following Wednesday's 18-16 defeat to Spain at Harare Sports Club.

Captain Hanco Germishuys scored both of the MJAAs' tries in the second half while fly half Ben Cima kicked two successful conversions for the Americans to earn a bonus point in the defeat. Namibia, which defeated JD Stephenson's side in the first match of the tournament, finishes second in the pool with two victories. The MJAAs will play Uruguay in the Fifth-Place Match Sunday, May 1, at 4 a.m. ET.

To reach the U20 Trophy Final, the MJAAs were tasked with scoring four tries in a win while keeping their opponent from earning a bonus point. From the get-go Stephenson's charges pushed for an early try. Mismanagement of the breakdown by Spain in its own half was punished by the All-Americans, who went into the ruck hard to win the turnover and penalty.

Cima kicked to touch rather than kick for points to begin a lengthy attack just two minutes into the match. Scrum half Louis Mulholland's grubber kick was cut out before the MJAAs took a penalty, but Spain committed its own infraction in the resulting lineout at midfield. Another set piece five meters from the try line turned into nothing, a successive penalty to Spain saw Germishuys points to the touch line once again, and a third penalty in quick succession called for a stoppage.

Spain tackled well throughout the match to stifle the MJAAs, who let possession slip away in the ninth minute in a five-meter lineout. Spain's clearance kick was gathered by full back Mitch Wilson, who was flipped over in an attempted tackle on the return. The tackler, Inaki Spuches Mateu, was sent to the bin on a yellow card for dangerous play.

The MJAAs were not able to capitalize on the man-advantage despite plenty of time with ball in hand in Spain's half. Malon Al-Jiboori used his big frame and driving legs to move forward in contact before Germishuys took on three defenders in front of the try line. The ball popped out of the captain's arms in contact, but Spain was again penalized before it could clear the danger.

Possession was turned over via a ball lost forward in the ensuing lineout, and Spain set up its first attack of the match in the 15th minute before the MJAAs forced a turnover. On a mission to score points, Cima attempted to pin Spain back with a kick only for it to fly directly into touch. Spain nearly turned the mistake into points almost immediately with quick ball movement to the wing, but Brian Hannon took Jordi Jorba Jorge into touch.

 Marie-Louise van der Sandt

Spain killed off the remaining minutes of the sinning without conceding a single point. When play resumed with 15 young men per team, the MJAAs again found themselves in the ascendancy in open play as well as at scrum time. The tough Spanish defense held strong and forced the MJAAs backwards a bit midway through the half, and Cima cut short a series of kicks with another that landed in touch. He caught a break, however, as Spain's lineout was deemed not straight, and the MJAAs asserted their dominance in the set piece to win a penalty. Alvar Gimeno could not believe his luck when the ball was spilled from the tap, and ran into the attacking half of the pitch with a head of steam. The attack reached the try line with the MJAAs prepared on defense, but Jaime Mata looked to pass from the breakdown before sidestepping the defender for the opening try and 8-0 lead after 26 minutes.

The MJAAs kept the momentum from the kickoff and Spain conceded several penalties in the next few minutes, but it was Spain that threatened the try line again prior to the end of the half. Quick hands nearly resulted in Ignacio Guerra diving over in the corner, but the final pass was just out of reach and into touch. The MJAAs went for a scrum and won it to clear, and did enough to keep the score at 8-0 at the break.

Like their start to the match, the MJAAs came out of the halftime session thirsting for a try. Roddy Giles attempted to keep a Spain kick in play in the 42nd minute, but the match official's assistant flagged the play as in touch, giving Spain a lineout in the attacking half. After winning a penalty a phase later, a better-positioned lineout turned was turned into a maul to get on top of the try line. The MJAAs withstood three crash ball attempts before a try was awarded for the fourth from Vicente Delhoyo.

Spain's 16-0 lead after 44 minutes was less than insurmountable considering the six-point-try scoring system and U20 Trophy teams' affinity for scoring points - the MJAAs' defeat of Hong Kong was the lowest-scoring match of the tournament at 44 combined points. The MJAAs had a tough go of it, however, and did not break through until the 60th minute.

Spain had begun to get comfortable with possession when a lineout at its own 10 was pressured by the Americans. A sloppy pass pushed Spain back towards its 22, where it conceded a penalty. Germishuys took the ball from the lineout maul to the try line and dove over for his sixth try of the tournament and a 16-8 score line.

The MJAAs were given a boost of momentum with the try as substitutes began to trickle into the match, but Cima's kick to touch from a Spain penalty a minute later did not reach touch, allowing Spain to clear. Turnovers galore for both teams slowed down the match, and mishandled passes gave Spain respite with the set pieces. Duncan Van Schalkwyk lost the ball in the 73rd minute as the referee whistled the MJAAs for a penalty, and Spain's Andrea Rabagao successful kicked a penalty goal to extend his team's lead to 18-8.

Stephenson's under-20 national team emptied the tank in the final minutes of the match, running hard at the defense and forcing Spain into penalty trouble. After the fifth or sixth penalty five meters from the try line well beyond the 80th minute, Germishuys took a tap for a try on the final play of the match. The captain's seventh try in three matches brought the final score to 18-16.

The MJAAs played for and took third place in 2014 - their last appearance in the competition - despite losing just one match in pool play. With losses to Spain and Namibia in Zimbabwe, the U.S. team will play Uruguay for fifth place at this year's U20 Trophy. The Finals day, May 1, begins with the Seventh-Place Match at 4 a.m. ET, with the U.S. match scheduled to kick off at 4 a.m. ET.

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

1. Chance Wenglewski

2. Steven Branham

3. Mason Pedersen

4. Victor Comptat

5. Deven Marshall

6. Malon Al-Jiboori

7. Brennan Falcon

8. Hanco Germishuys (C)

9. Louis Mulholland

10. Ben Cima

11. Roddy Giles

12. Brian Hannon

13. Devin Lim

14. Tyler Sousley

15. Mitch Wilson

AIG Men's Junior All-Americans | Reserves

16. Ruairi Van Raalte

17. Roman Salanoa

18. Bronson Teles

19. Chad Sneyd

20. Ruben De Haas

21. Duncan Van Schalkwyk

22. Zach Young

Spain | v. USA

1. Pere Fernandez

2. Vicente Delhoyo

3. Jon Zabala (C)

4. Baptiste Bougeard

5. Gonzalo Del Rio

6. Ignacio Guerra

7. Luis Canti

8. Cosmin Matei

9. Jaime Mata

10. Alvar Gimeno

11. Hugo Pichot

12. Andrea Rabagao

13. Inaki Spuches Mateu

14. Samual Parry

15. Jordi Jorba Jorge

Spain | Reserves

16. Juame Genabat

17. Jose Lerin

18. Tobias Francis

19. Yannick Pardo

20. Tommy Vaisset

21. Guillermo Vicente

22. Eduard Andres Calatayud

AIG Men's Junior All-Americans | 16

Tries: Germishuys (2)

Conversions: Cima (2)

Spain | 18

Tries: Sanchez Mata, Portoles Delhoyo

Conversions: Rabagao (2)

Penalties: Rabagao

Discipline: Spuches Mateu (Yellow)

AIG Men's Junior All-Americans | 2016 World Rugby U20 Trophy

v. Namibia - L 46-44

v. Hong Kong - W 32-12

v. Spain - L 18-16

Fifth-Place v. Uruguay - Sunday, May 1 @ 4 a.m. ET