Late winner dooms BHSAAs against Spain

PONT-L'ABBÉ, France - Spain snatched a win from the Boys High School All-Americans Tuesday at the Rugby Europe Men's Under 18 European Championships, 26-22.

Though Head Coach Salty Thompson's BHSAAs scored four tries to their opponent's two, Spanish full back Javier Lopez kicked four penalty goals and converted both of his team's tries to counteract the five-pointers. The game-winning score just before the stroke of full time erased the All-Americans' late lead. The BHSAAs will finish their campaign in France against Canada - also 0-2 at the European Championships - Saturday, April 15.

"Lineouts were a problem area," Thompson said. "The attack played with width, better shape, and improved decision-making. The defense was solid until the last effort by Spain, where we missed a series of tackles."

The discipline issues that allowed Portugal to slot three penalty kicks in a 26-5 result Friday, April 7, continued for the All-Americans against Spain, with Lopez punishing a fourth-minute infraction for a 3-0 score line. The BHSAAs botched a midfield lineout following the ensuing restart, but found a way onto the scoreboard with line speed and awareness. Flanker Christopher Noggle intercepted a pass inside the U.S. half as Spain looked to use the turnover advantage, and found lock Garrett Kay in support for the try in the corner.

Pinned back behind their 22, the BHSAAs won the ball via a penalty to clear their lines. The lineout again did not find its target at the 10, but Spain's mishandle returned possession to the U.S. a phase later through a knock. A successive knock against Spain on the other side of the field allowed the All-Americans to break out from the scrum for an extended possession through phases, finishing with prop David Ainuu crashing over the line from five meters for the team's second try, 10-3.


The missed conversions would come to haunt them later, but Spain's accumulation of given opportunities eroded the All-Americans' lead in the middle stages of the game. A penalty against the U.S. with ball in hand in the defensive end brought the score to 10-6 in the 23rd-minute. As the first 35-minute half drew to a close - with Spanish winger Martín Alonso five minutes into a yellow card sinning - the BHSAAs forced a loose ball in a tackle they tried to hold up before scrum half Conor McManus grubbered the ball towards the posts and behind a sweeper-less defensive line. He was taken out of the play ahead of the in-goal area, forcing the match official's hand in awarding a penalty try and sending another player to the bin.

The third unconverted try was erased before the halftime whistle blew. The BHSAAs mishandled the restart and took a loose ball into touch behind their own 22. Though they stole the lineout, the pass in-goal was bobbled and deemed to have been struck out of play by the arm of fly half Quinn Perry, necessitating another penalty try call. Spain's try was converted, diminishing the U.S. lead at the break to 15-13.

Lopez gave Spain its second lead of the match 10 minutes into the second half and extended it to 19-15 a few minutes later as the BHSAAs' penalty troubles were compounded by self-inflicted errors in the set pieces. Full back Eric Naposki-Abdalah - the team's most dangerous player in the Quarterfinal matchup with Portugal - drew a high tackle as he neared the corner from a BHSAA counter attack. The All-Americans took the tap from the spot of the foul and moved towards the posts, where captain and No. 8 Bailey Wilson touched the ball to the ground, 22-19.

With minutes to play, the BHSAAs were stripped of possession and Spanish prop Nil Gabarro shed multiple tackles on an individual run to put Spain ahead, 26-22. The restart was taken by the All-Americans, who lost the ball forward for the final whistle.

"It was an improvement over game one," Thompson said. "As we get better, so is everyone else.

"This event is very much needed to allow the boys the opportunity to experience a competitive environment and grow as players and young men."

The BHSAAs' final opponent at the Championships, Canada, has scored just three points in two matches in France. A first-up, 43-3, defeat to Finalist Georgia preceded Tuesday's 18-0 shutout defeat to Belgium. The rivalry match is scheduled for Saturday, April 15, with the kickoff time to be determined.

Boys High School All-Americans | v. Spain
1. Thomas Waghorne
2. Gabriel Mahuinga
3. David Ainuu
4. Garrett Kay
5. Asa Carter
6. Thomas Meehan
7. Christopher Noggle
8. Bailey Wilson (C)
9. Conor McManus
10. Quinn Perry
11. Kyle van Tonder
12. Mateo Gadsden
13. Jack Wendling
14. Christian Newby
15. Eric Naposki-Abdalah

Boys High School All-Americans | Reserves
16. Xavier Doering
17. Jack Manzo
18. Maximillian Walding
19. Daniel Crowley
20. Jake Burns
21. Ethan McVeigh
22. Michael Jennings
23. Ryan James
24. Justin Petersen

Spain | v. BHSAA
1. Nil Gabarro
2. Xavier Cebrian
3. Xavier Prieto
4. Jaume Magré
5. Octave Cassand
6. Olmo Rodriguez
7. Joan Soler
8. Marc Sanchez
9. Miguel Reina
10. Eliot Exposito
11. Tobias Sainz Trápaga
12. Nicolás Petros
13. Ignacio Guerra
14. Martín Alonso
15. Javier Lopez

Spain | v. Reserves
16. Alfonso González
17. Luca Nelles
18. Oscar Sánchez
19. Miguel Bermejo
20. Alejandro Acarreta
21. K. Aurrekoetea
23. Agustin Clouzard
24. Lucas Martin
25. Daniel Barranco
26. Samuel Ezeala

Boys High School All-Americans | 22
Tries: Kay, Ainuu, Penalty, Wilson
Conversions: McManus

Spain | 26
Tries: Penalty, Gabbaro
Conversions: Lopez (2)
Penalties: Lopez (4)
Discipline: Alonso (Yellow), TBD (Yellow)

Boys High School All-Americans | Rugby Europe Men's Under 18 European Championships
v. Portugal - L 26-5
v. Spain - L 26-22
v. Canada - Saturday, April 15 @ 5 a.m. ET