The USA Under 20 rugby team fell to Romania on Sunday in the IRB’s Junior World Trophy final. The loss keeps the U20’s in the Junior World Trophy competition for at least one more year as Romania earns promotion to the top competition for U20 teams, the Junior World Championship.
“We didn’t come out with the victory, we gave it our best and unfortunately they capitalised on our mistakes. They played well, we couldn’t really penetrate their defence and we give credit to them. Respect to the boys, they gave it their best,” said USA captain Cameron Dolan.
Romania scored two late tries through Marian Pirvu and Stefan Patrascu to finally break the deadlock and be crowned IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2009 champions with a 25-13 victory over USA.
The two sides settled into the game well, neither displaying the nerves they were undoubtedly feeling given the title at stake, with Patrascu kicking Romania into the lead 3-0 with a seventh minute penalty. He could have given Romania a bigger lead but his next attempts flew just wide.
His counterpart Tai Enosa spliced the uprights with a drop goal to knot the game a 3-3. The USA then took a 6-3 lead with Robert Johnson’s penalty goal as wing Zach Test began to cause real problems for the Romanians with his pace and running lines.
Romania’s Patrascu then tied the game at 6-6 with a 28th minute penalty goal.
USA Center Niall O’Keeffe, just as Test had started doing, sliced through the Romanian defence to set up the final’s first try, which came after Brian Hussey dummied to draw the marker and send Enosa over the line. The conversion gave the USA a 13-6 lead going into halftime.
USA lost stand-in captain Barry Sheehan to the sin-bin late in the half and it proved costly. Within minutes of the start of the second half Romania center Ionut Puisoru charged up the middle of the pitch, seemingly delaying the pass too long only for wing Adrian Apostol to retrieve the loose ball and race through to tie up the match at 13-13.
Romania would appear to take a lead with about 15 minutes remaining in the game as their forwards would push over into the endzone.
The replay clearly showed a Romanian player touching down for a try, but the referee was in poor position, and lucky for the USA, rules that the ball was held up. Romania got the put in at the five meter scrum, but the USA turned the ball over and Enosa kicked safely into touch to stop the threat.
The USA back three of Johnson, Test and Brett Thompson, along with Enosa, looked a constant threat with breaks, but the final pass went astray or they lost the ball on a few occasions to keep the score level at the hour.
With the two teams deadlocked at 13-13 entering the last 10 minutes of the final at the RFUEA Grounds in Nairobi, Kenya and as extra-time threatened it was two errors by the Junior Eagles which proved decisive.
First, replacement scrum half Chris Saint threw a pass into the grateful arms of Marian Drenceanu, the second row then fed full back Marian Pirvu to touch down.
Patrascu sliced the conversion to leave the score at 18-13 which left the USA with a window of opportunity as a converted try would win the match, but as they pushed for it, the ball went loose and was hacked on by Romania’s impressive fly half, Stefan Patrascu, who beat Tai Enosa to the touchdown in the corner. Patrascu would convert his own try to put the final score at 25-13 in favor of Romania.
“We had control of the game in the first half, in the second half we got the field advantage but unfortunately we didn’t score,” said USA U20 head coach Salty Thompson. ”We put ourselves under a lot of pressure and led to us losing.
I give respect to all players of both teams, it was a tough match and congratulations to Romania they won. We got tired a bit due to the nature of the tournament. We will now have to focus on next year’s qualifiers in Cayman.”