BOULDER, Colo. – The second Men’s Junior All-American camp concluded Monday, Jan. 18, at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo., with two 80-minute scrimmages between the U20s and the hosting Lions.
Led by Lindenwood’s own JD Stephenson, the MJAAs were up against a program bigger and more experienced, and one that has been training together since August. All that said, the young men vying a spot on the squad to take on Canada’s U20s Feb. 13 refused to back down from D1A Rugby’s third-ranked team.
In the first scrimmage of the day, the All-American hopefuls managed to keep a level score after 40 minutes, 12-12. A successful conversion would ultimately be the difference, as Lindendwood converted its second-half try and won, 19-17. The second match saw the Lions jump out to a 21-5 halftime lead, but the MJAAs won the second half and only fell by nine points, 26-17.
“It was a great overall performance from both sides,” assessed Stephenson. “The set piece and attack was good considering the limited number of opportunities that both sides have had to play together. Defensively and at ruck time, there was some real physicality shown, which is always good to see.”
The 160 minutes of hard-nosed rugby was equally valuable for Lindenwood. Excluding the four Lions that suited up for the U20s, 43 Lions earned valuable minutes Monday. The solid run that ended with two wins came in a timely fashion, as the Mid-South squad preps for a brief California tour to play No. 1 Saint Mary’s and No. 20 Santa Clara on back-to-back days from Jan. 23-24.
As for the MJAAs, Stephenson and his staff have less than three weeks to put together the lineup tasked with defeating Canada and winning qualification to the 2016 World Rugby U20 Trophy. From the effort and ability on display by the U20s throughout their recent camp, selections won’t come easy.
“The coaching staff has been impressed with the level of skill, dedication, and overall drive that we have seen from a good cross-selection of players throughout the camp,” Stephenson complimented. “The coaches and players alike are excited to be put into a one-week immersion camp prior to the qualifier against Canada, and to see these qualities shine through in a successful build-up week.”
The Feb. 13 U20 Trophy qualifier against Canada will take place in Austin, Texas – the same day the Men’s Eagles face Canada in the second leg of the Americas Rugby Championship at Austin’s Dell Diamond. Meanwhile, Lindenwood departs for California tomorrow for its 2014 D1A Semifinal rematch against top-ranked Saint Mary’s. The top-flight nonconference contest kicks off at 1 p.m. PT and will be streamed live on GaelVision.