After a series of pick-and-jams that were stopped just short of the tryline, the USA U20s needed to change it up.
The Japanese U20s were up 33-32, and knew if they held here, perhaps they could close out the game and maybe score one more. But one more surge to the line and very quick ball to scrumhalf Nick Boyer allowed the Junior All Americans to spin the ball. Out to Will Magie, and the captain and flyhalf sent a wide pass that bounced to outside center Tanner Barnes.
The Central Washington University youngster, who has been superb through the whole tournament, stepped one way, then the other, and froze his defender. That’s all he had to do before sending a zippy flat pass to Noah Tarrant. The Oceanside Hurricane took the ball going forward and in he went for the try. That made it 37-33, and won the game.
“Tanner Barnes, he just passed it to me, I saw daylight and the opportunity and just took it,” said Tarrant, who scored three tries in a game where he really, really needed to. “Their 13 was [coming in] a lot and we decided to just swing it out to hands and just we knew we had daylight. It was just a blessing to see daylight and just run for it.”
Tarrant is an excellent example of how high-schoolers and college players combine on the U20s team (only one starter for Japan was not in university). Tarrant and Barnes learned to work together throughout the assembly of the team – exactly as the coaching staff had envisioned.
“Tanner Barnes he’s my boy right there,” said Tarrant. “We started at Olympic Training Center, then went on to Canada, and then Steamboat [Springs] in Colorado. We put it all together. I am just humbled to be around Tanner and those kind of people. It’s emotional … I get emotional I won’t be able to play next year.”
For the USA U20s, the victory was another example of the fortitude they (and, for that matter, Japan) have shown this summer. They fell behind to Canada, and Tonga, and didn’t panic, but played their game. They did so against Japan, with plenty teamwork and toughness … and a little magic from Noah Tarrant.