The USA needed a last-gasp try to escape Starfire Stadium with a 30-25 victory after a committed Canadian side pushed them to the brink. While the table will record a bonus point win for the Eagles, in reality their performance was below expectations as they struggled to break through Canada’s defense.
Will Magie landed an early penalty but it was Canada who got the first try. After sustained pressure in USA territory, Phil Mack picked out Nick Blevins and the midfielder went clean through a gap in the Eagles line to score a seven-pointer.
From an attacking lineout the Eagles replied. As he had on three occasions against Uruguay, Joe Taufete’e peeled off the back of the maul and straight through the helpless backs to score in the corner. The lead would change two more times before the break.
Canada’s own lineout drive went to work and when the USA forwards disintegrated it was Luke Campbell who touched the ball down for the try. The Eagles struck back immediately, however, and they blasted ahead until the tryline was within Cam Dolan’s reach, the big No8 picking the ball up and cleverly dotting down before the Canadians could react.
Just after the break it was Taufete’e again who scored, this time staying in the maul until it had successfully reached paydirt. Canada were now down 20-12 but refused to concede. Penalties put them in position to strike and Campbell blasted straight through his opposite number Dolan to score with Gordon McRorie’s conversion making it a one point game.
The two kickers exchanged successful penalties but the game was still in the balance. Canada would spend the final quarter fiercely defending and when the Eagles made a mistake, McRorie knocked over a long-range penalty goal to give his team the lead with only seven minutes to play.
They held out as long as they could when a high tackle from Kyle Baillie was one too many penalties for the referee. With one of their best forwards off the pitch the tiring forward pack somehow managed to hold up an Eagles attack. At the resulting scrum they had nothing left, and with the advantage replacement scrumhalf Ruben de Haas simply broke away to swan dive into in-goal for the winning try.
Their final tally puts them in second place for now but the Eagles must await the result of Uruguay’s match against Brazil until their final Americas Rugby Championship placing is determined. Canada are guaranteed to finish in 5th place despite earning a losing bonus point.
Both teams will now disperse until July, when they will reconvene for the Pacific Nations Cup and start the final run-in to the World Cup. In the meantime some players will wonder if they have done enough to ensure their ticket to World Rugby’s flagship event.
Tries – J. Taufete’e 2 (19’, 45’), C. Dolan (38’), R. de Haas (79’)
Cons – W. Magie 1/3 (39’), T. Leader 1/1 (80’)
Pens – W. Magie 2/3 (6’, 58’)
Tries – N. Blevins (13’), L. Campbell 2 (32’, 51’)
Cons – G. McRorie 2/3 (14’, 52’)
Pens – G. McRorie 2/2 (62’, 73’)
Yellow cards – K. Baillie (76’)
1 David Ainu’u (17 Olive Kilifi 63’), 2 Joe Taufete’e (16 Kapeli Pifeleti 73’), 3 Paul Mullen (18 Dino Waldren 77’), 4 Ben Landry, 5 Nick Civetta (19 Greg Peterson 63’), 6 John Quill, 7 Hanco Germishuys, 8 Cam Dolan (20 Malon Al-Jiboori 59’), 9 Shaun Davies (21 Ruben de Haas 59’), 10 Will Magie (22 Tadhg Leader 77’), 11 Mike Te’o, 12 Paul Lasike, 13 Bryce Campbell, 14 Blaine Scully (capt.), 15 Marcel Brache
Not used: 23 Gannon Moore
1 Hubert Buydens, 2 Benoît Pifféro, 3 Cole Keith, 4 Conor Keys, 5 Kyle Baillie, 6 Justin Blanchet (20 Dustin Dobravsky 44’), 7 Lucas Rumball (capt.), 8 Luke Campbell (19 Josh Larsen 53’-59’), 9 Phil Mack (21 Jamie Mackenzie 63’), 10 Gordon McRorie, 11 Kainoa Lloyd, 12 Nick Blevins, 13 Ben LeSage, 14 Andrew Coe, 15 Theo Sauder
Not used: 16 Jordan Olsen, 17 Noah Barker, 18 Ryan Kotlewski, 22 Patrick Parfrey, 23 Doug Fraser
Referee: Pali Deluca (UAR)
Assistants: Scott Green (USAR) & Denny Russell (USAR)
TMO: Davey Ardrey (USAR)