The High School All Americans went one better than last year at the Wellington Tournament by beating the Belgium U17s.
A year ago they didn't even play the game, as by the time gameday arrived, too many of the USA players were sick and the game was never held.
This time around, the HSAA squad got some outstanding kicking from Gonzaga flyhalf/fullback Ben Cima, and tries from Cameron Appel and Malcolm May to win 21-10. Captain and flanker Hanco Germishuys was named player of the game by the Belgians.
Belgium may not be well-known for their rugby at the senior level, but their clubs have robust academy structures, and players often track into academies at French clubs, as well.
"They are savvy players, with good mauling forwards and a tactical flyhalf made for a good contest," said Head Coach Salty Thompson.
So Thompson was happy with the win, but he wasn't overjoyed with the earlier 45-16 loss to Wales U16s.
"We had a host of problems against Wales," said Thompson. "Despite having 42 percent of total possession, we managed to squander half of that, mostly on turnovers. We also struggled to defend, over-committing numbers close to contact and allowing Wales to successfully beat us on the outside."
Against Belgium the young Americans were more in control and did well in the set piece.
"Tactically we were more successful, and got over the gainline more effectively," Thompson said. "On defense we launched and pressured Belgium into errors."
It is difficult to get everyone on the same page in just a few days. Thompson praised the work ethic of the players on this trip to England, which ends Friday against England South U16s.
"Our boys always get better with time and practice," Thompson said. "I love their commitment. It's a challenge for our players to get to know each others and form as a team in such a short time-frame. We get better in this type of environment where its 24/7 rugby."
On Tuesday the HSAA players got a day off and took a trip to London. They are back at training Wednesday and Thursday, preparing for England South.
Thompson will be working with the team on improving their contact-area support and clean-out, building and maintaining the defensive line, and maintaining width and depth on attack."