KINGSTON, Ont. – New skipper Aaron Carpenter scored the winning try as he led Canada to a 28-25 win over the U.S. Eagles in international rugby on Saturday (June 9). It was the first test match for both nations since the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
Played in front of 7,521 fans at Queen’s University’s Richardson Stadium, both sides scored three tries in a game that went from end-to-end.
The difference was the goal-kicking of fullback James Pritchard who slotted five from six for 13 points.
Carpenter, who played for the McMaster Marauders, was named man-of-the-match for his inspiring performance in what was his 43rd test cap, but first as captain.
The day started awkwardly for the U.S. who knocked on the opening kick-off. Canada used the possession well and pressured early. The hosts came close to scoring very early when a Matt Evans line break and kick ahead went dead.
Canada did score first in the fourth minute when Evans was able to dummy and run straight through the U.S. defense from 22 metres out, scoring a try near the posts. Pritchard converted to make it 7-0 Canada.
The U.S. replied four minutes later from a scrum 45 metres out from Canada’s goal line. The ball got out to centre Paul Emerick who was able to slip a tackle and send the ball to Chris Wyles. The U.S. fullback got the ball to winger Luke Hume, who still had work to do to score in the corner. Will Holder’s conversion attempt came up short. Canada held the lead, 7-5.
Canada hit back from a line out in the 12th minute. Carpenter picked up a bouncing pass and was able to break the line getting deep into the Americans’ 22. From the ensuing ruck, it was an easy pass from Sean White to Ciaran Hearn who was able to round the defense to score in the corner. Pritchard made the touchline conversion to increase the lead to 14-5.
The first half was played very fairly with only five penalties awarded in total. Two goals kicked by the Americans and one by the home side meant the gap closed to 17-11.
In the 30th minute, the Eagles were able to work through the phases in Canada’s 22, testing the defence. A well-timed inside pass from Holder to James Paterson got the winger to the line where he was then able to reach over for the try. With the successful conversion, the U.S took the lead from the first time, 18-17.
Canada had the last say in the half when the U.S. conceded a penalty in the 34th minute. Pritchard kicked three more points to return the lead to Canada, 20-18 at the break.
In the 2nd half, the U.S. again started poorly kicking the restart out on the full. From the ensuing possession, Canada was able to work into the U.S. half where the Eagles conceded another penalty. Pritchard kicked the goal to extend the lead to 23-18.
In the 50th minute, Canada centre Mike Sholz of Oakville made a huge line break, stopped only on the U.S. goal line. From the ensuing ruck, Dala sent a wide pass to Hubert Buydens on the wing, where the prop dropped the ball backwards.
From the ruck, the ball went looses and when Todd Clever came around to pick it up, Chauncey OToole’s foot tripped the U.S. skipper. The Canadian was shown a yellow card and sent to the sin-bin for 10 minutes.
The U.S. was able to pressure their hosts with the man-advantage but the defense held firm with only giving away a penalty 30 metres out in the 58th minute. Holder’s attempt was wide. That was the closest the U.S. came to scoring before O’Toole’s yellow card expired.
Hearn would miss a long penalty goal attempt for Canada in the 71st minute, but the U.S. clearance did not find touch. Instead, it was caught by D.T.H. van der Merwe, who looked dangerous on the counter attack.
Breaking into the U.S. 22, van der Merwe dummied right but then popped left allowing Carpenter to score in the corner, after outrunning the cover defense. The conversion was missed as Canada increased the lead to 28-18.
The U.S. came back hard in the dying minutes and the Canadian defense held until the 78th, when flanker Scott Lavalla barged over near the posts. Holder’s conversion made it 28-25, which was the final score.
“It was a tough game and a real nail-biter at the end, but we were happy to take the win,” stated Canada head coach Kieran Crowley after the game.
“We gave up silly penalties and gave them free yardage,” Crowly added. “That had us playing frantically and the U.S. made us pay for it. But it was a win in a test match and we’re happy for that.”
“We played in peaks and valleys and had some rusty moments,” commented U.S. coach Mike Tolkin. “Like Canada, we are just getting back together for the first time.
“We will be looking for improvements over the next few games.”
The U.S. hosts Georgia next week in Colorado. Up next for Canada is Italy in a rare night game at Toronto’s BMO field, Friday, June 15.