MURRAY — The Americans took care of business on Tuesday.
The United States Under-20 national rugby team knocked off Russia 36-13 to stay undefeated in the Junior World Rugby Trophy and advance to the championship game.
"We're in the final on Saturday, home soil, so there's not much more you can ask for than that," said U.S. captain Will Magie. "Three for three so far, we're unbeaten as a team for the whole season, so hopefully that will continue on Saturday."
That game will be played at 6 p.m. Their opponent will be Japan, a team that will be playing in its third straight JWRT championship game after topping Georgia earlier in the day to win Pool B. The winner of the game will be promoted from the JWRT, a Tier II tournament to the Tier I Junior World Championship. The Brave Blossoms (Japan's nickname for its rugby team) fell to Italy 36-7 in the 2010 JWRT final and narrowly fell to Samoa 31-24 in last year's championship.
So is the third time the charm?
"In Japanese, third time is the best, too. We believe that," Japan head coach Ryuji Nakatake said. "Some of (the players) know the difficulty (of playing in) the final, is not the same as the pool games."
Both teams won all three of their pool games. All the Americans needed to do against Russia was win, tie or even lose and score four tries to clinch a spot in the title game. The U.S. team rested a few players — including BYU sophomore Tua Laei — giving others a chance to prove themselves.
"All the guys that came did really well," Magie said. "Obviously, there's going to be a few rusty combinations and that, but I think we weathered that."
Mike Te'o was one of those players out to prove himself. A back for his club team, Te'o is fighting for the starting spot as a forward. He scored two tries — including the team's fourth try in the second half to clinch the title berth.
Meanwhile, full back Madison Hughes continued to close in on the JWRT all-time points record. Hughes has 72 points on the tournament — just 10 short of Romania's Stefan Patrascu's record.
Hughes opened the game's scoring with a penalty kick. Russia had an opportunity to take the lead but they missed two penalty attempts and quickly paid for it as scrum half Nick Boyer cut across the field to give the Eagles a 10-0 lead.
However, the Russians made things interesting by working the ball from the scrum to Alexander Romanov, who dove into the corner of the try zone for five points, halving the U.S. lead.
Te'o finished off a long drive with a dive up the middle to help the Americans take command of the game, and just before the break, Tanner Barnes scored to give the U.S. a 24-5 lead. Nick Barrett also scored to help put the game out of reach.
JAPAN 36, GEORGIA 29: The Japanese used an accurate kicking game and an impressive maul to hold possession and wear out the Georgia in what was effectively a semifinal. Japan got tries from Tsubasa Kizaki, Hayato Nishiuchi, Seiyu Kohara and Rikiya Matsuda to take a 29-5 lead into halftime.
TONGA 41, CHILE 14: Tonga winger Hosea Saumaki continued his strong tournament, scoring three tries to lead the Sea Eagles. Saumaki has scored a tournament-leading total of seven tries.
CANADA 66, ZIMBABWE 45: Canada's Jon West, Conor McCann, Taylor Paris, Clayton Meeres and Cam Stones all quickly found the try zone as Canada built a 35-0 lead in just 11 minutes of play.
Murray Park's rugby stadium
Seventh place game
Zimbabwe vs. Russia, noon
Fifth place game
Canada vs. Chile, 2 p.m.
Third place game
Tonga vs. Georgia, 4 p.m.
United States vs. Japan, 6 p.m.
All-day tickets cost $5 and all games will be streamed at deseretnews.com.
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