World Rugby U20 Trophy 2019 revisited: Japan edge Portugal
Ahead of the return of the U20 Trophy in Kenya next month we look back at the last tournament to be played, in Brazil four years ago.
Nairobi is gearing up to host the World Rugby U20 Trophy 2023 from 15-30 July, but it will not be the first time the age-grade competition has been staged in Kenya.
Back in April 2009 it was the Impala Ground and RFUEA Grounds that welcomed the players, as opposed to the Nyayo National Stadium, yet the action was no less anticipated as eight teams arrived in the Kenyan capital.
It was Romania who ultimately reigned supreme, beating the USA in a thrilling final, while the hosts twice suffered late heartache en route to finishing fourth. Here is the story of how Romania won the U20 Trophy 2009.
The action got underway at the Impala Ground on 21 April, 2009 as Romania ran in eight tries to beat Papua New Guinea 50-17 in Pool B.
That match was followed by a 64-15 win for the USA against Cayman Islands, Zack Test and Brett Thompson each scoring two of their side’s 10 tries, while captain and future Eagles number eight Cam Dolan also crossed the whitewash.
Across Nairobi at the RFUEA Grounds, the action was no less enthralling, and Chile pulled away from Korea in the second half to win their encounter 49-21.
Chile led 22-14 at half-time and added three more tries in the second half, as well as two Nicolas Herreros penalties, to put a seal on victory.
Day one, though, ended in heartbreak for Kenya who suffered an agonising 22-17 defeat to African rivals Namibia. The hosts led 17-15 with time running out, but Nathan Ockhuizen’s late try snatched victory.
It was a damaging defeat for their hopes of winning the title on home soil, but they kick-started their campaign with an equally dramatic win against the USA four days’ later.
Collins Omae was the hero as he scored a hat-trick of tries, the third of which arrived in the 75th minute to confirm a 33-32 victory that sent the vast majority of the 1,000 fans in attendance at the RFUEA Grounds home in ecstatic mood.
Earlier, Namibia had strengthened their grip on top spot in Pool A with a 104-7 defeat of the Cayman Islands. Ockhuizen scored three of his side’s 17 tries at the Impala Ground.
In Pool B, Chile and Romania both continued their winning starts to the tournament. Thomas Claps became the latest player to score a hat-trick, while Chile were awarded three penalty tries, and Salomon Diaz grabbed a seventh to beat Papua New Guinea, who had taken the lead through Bobby Pau’s second-minute score, 50-22.
Romania took the lead in the first minute of their match against Korea, through the first of Marian Drenceanu’s two tries, while Ionut Puisoru crossed three times and fly-half Stefan Patrascu scored 20 points in their 65-14 win.
That result set up a winner-takes-all encounter between Chile and Romania on day three, and it was the European nation who booked their place in the final with a 26-20 victory at the RFUEA Grounds.
Romania led 9-8 at half-time thanks to three Patrascu penalties but much of the try-scoring action was saved for the final 23 minutes as Cristian Rizea (twice) and Filip Lazar crossed to edge the European side home.
In the earlier match in Pool B, Pau scored two of Papua New Guinea’s six tries in their 43-19 win against Korea.
Hosts Kenya needed a big win against Cayman Islands to have any hope of joining Romania in the final, and they recorded it. Oscar Ouma scored three of his side’s 10 tries in a 67-0 win.
But it wouldn’t be enough as the USA scored two tries in the closing 10 minutes to beat Namibia 29-24 and claim the all-important try-scoring bonus point. It meant the Junior All-Americans finished the pool stage on 12 points, one ahead of their hosts and two clear of Namibia.
A crowd of 1,400 gathered at the RFUEA Grounds for the final and they were treated to a match that remained in the balance until the final few minutes.
The USA led 13-6 at half-time and looked on course to end their first U20 Trophy campaign with the title, however, they lost Barry Sheehan to a 40th-minute yellow card and their opponents took full advantage.
Adrian Apostol scored Romania’s first try while Sheehan was off the pitch, allowing fly-half Patrascu to level the scores with a successful conversion.
The match remained tied heading into the final 10 minutes, when tries from Marian Pirvu and Patrascu secured a 25-13 victory and U20 Trophy glory for Romania.
Unfortunately for Romania, the reduction of teams in the World Rugby U20 Championship from 16 to 12 for 2010 meant they were not promoted to the premier age-grade tournament.
Earlier at the RFUEA Grounds, Chile held off a Kenyan comeback to secure a 19-17 victory and third place.
Leading 14-3 at half-time, Mauricio Rey’s try gave Chile a 19-10 advantage in the final quarter before Graham Dinda crossed the whitewash to raise home hopes.
Namibia finished fifth, having shared 91 points and 14 tries in a see-saw 48-43 victory over Papua New Guinea, while Korea secured seventh place with a 62-12 defeat of the Cayman Islands.