MURRAY — About 30 minutes into his second international rugby game playing for the United States U-20s national team, South Jordan native Tua Laei found himself in a strange situation.
He had the ball and space in front of him. Still, he looked to pass.
"The whole game plan for me was to set up people for tries," Laei said. "I was looking for the wing, but he was too deep, so I was like 'I guess I'll just score this myself.' "
And he did.
The speedy sophomore-to-be at BYU ran in for the try, giving the Americans a commanding 29-6 over Chile in the first half of their match in the Junior World Rugby Trophy tournament.
Laei's team went on to roll to a 54-25 win, virtually assuring themselves a spot in the finals of the eight-team international rugby tournament being hosted at Murray Park's Rugby Stadium. The humble Laei was quick to credit his teammates.
"It was basically a team effort," he said. "All I did was run onto the ball. I was fortunate enough to get set up by my teammates and throw on the burners, and I was lucky enough to score."
Laei, who played club rugby for Lowland and high school football at Riverton High School, also set up another U.S. try a few minutes later by kicking the ball into the corner of the try zone, allowing fullback Madison Hughes to run onto it and recover it. Hughes scored four tries in addition to his kicking duties. In all, he scored 35 of the Americans' 54 points.
"I was pretty happy with my performance — my teammates set up me well," Hughes said. "Tua put in a pretty good kick for the second (try). (Will Magie) put in a good pass for my third. I came up a lot on the score sheet, but it was a total team effort that scored the tries."
The win gives the Americans two wins out of two games in the four-games-in-two-weeks tournament. They are the only undefeated team in Pool A. A draw or victory on Tuesday at 6 p.m. against a winless Russia team would put them in the championship game against the winner of Pool B on June 30.
Tickets are $5 to see all four of Tuesday's games. All matches are streamed live at deseretnews.com.
In other games:
TONGA 62, RUSSIA 7: It was the Hosea Saumaki scored three tries — mostly on long, impressive gallops through the Russia defense — to lead the Tongans to an easy victory.
JAPAN 38, CANADA 35: Five different players scored for Japan, led by flanker Hayato Nishiuchi, who ran in two. Japan faces Georgia on Tuesday at 2 p.m. in the final game of Pool B play. The winner will advance to the championship game.
GEORGIA 43, ZIMBABWE 7: Georgia inside centre Levan Gogolashvili scored three tries to lead his team to an impressive result.