U.S. Eagles rally for 59-50 aggregate win over Canada in Rugby World Cup qualifier
GLENDALE, COLO. — Flanker Hanco Germishuys scored three tries Saturday as the U.S. Eagles rallied from a 13-point series deficit for a convincing 38-16 win on the night and 59-50 aggregate victory over Canada in their two-legged Rugby World Cup qualifier.
Coming off a 34-21 loss last weekend in St. John's, the U.S. ran in four first-half tries for a 25-9 lead and a three-point aggregate advantage. Canada, ranked 21st in the world, paid for mistakes, squandered opportunities and were on the back foot most of the night as their set pieces faltered at Infinity Park Stadium.
The 17th-ranked Americans scored 13 more points in the second half. Canada added a penalty try in the dying seconds after laying siege to the U.S. try-line.
The Eagles move on to face No. 16 Uruguay on Oct. 2 and 9 to determine who slots into Pool A at France 2023 as Americas 1 with No. 2 New Zealand, No. 5 France, No. 14 Italy and Africa 1.
The Canadians can still qualify but face a more convoluted route. They will now meet No. 28 Chile to determine who progresses to the Americas 2 playoff against the loser of the Americas 1 series.
The Americas 2 playoff winner slots into Pool D at the World Cup alongside No. 3 England, No. 6 Argentina, No. 10 Japan and No. 13 Samoa. The Americas 2 playoff loser has one more chance to qualify via a repechage tournament.
Peter Nelson kicked two penalties for Canada. Cooper Coats added a penalty.
"I think it came down to our individual errors, to be honest" said Canadian captain Lucas Rumball. "It's really disappointing and frustrating.
"If you look across the team, I bet you every individual dropped the ball or made an error. It's tough to win games at the international level when you're doing that."
Christian Dyer, Ruben de Haas and Joe Taufete'e also scored tries for the U.S. A.J. MacGinty kicked a conversion and penalty. De Haas added a drop goal.
The U.S. win snapped a seven-game losing streak.
In St. John's, the Eagles led 14-10 last week after a first half that saw Canadians Matt Heaton and Conor Keys sent to the sin-bin. Canada reeled off 24 straight points in the second half before U.S. debutante Tavite Lopeti scored a converted try under the posts in the 82nd minute to cut the lead to 34-21.
"We were humbled," MacGinty, the U.S. fly half and captain, said of the first game.
"The training sessions (this week) were so much better. We were sharper, we were more competitive in everything we did."
Back on home turf, the U.S. pressed from the opening kickoff with MacGinty cutting into the Canadian aggregate lead with a penalty in the fourth minute.
Canada tied it at 3-3 three minutes later via a long-distance Coats penalty after an American was penalized for not rolling away in the ruck. Nelson made it 6-3 for Canada with a chip-shot penalty in the 10th minute after the U.S., penned deep in its own end after a successful 50-22 kick, was pinged for offside.
U.S. flanker Jamason Fa'anana-Schultz was sent to the sin-bin in the 11th minute for an illegal ruck cleanout.
Despite being a man down, the U.S. went up 8-6 on a 16th-minute Germishuys try from a driving maul off a lineout.
Dyer dove over for another U.S. try and a 13-6 lead in the 22nd minute after Nelson fumbled a high box kick under pressure.
Canadian mistakes — Nelson putting the kickoff out of bounds and the U.S. winning a scrum penalty — seemed to set the Americans up for another score. But Taufete'e was stripped of the ball at the goal-line.
The Americans kept attacking and Germishuys, carrying two Canadians with him, crashed over the line in the 28th minute for an 18-6 lead.
Nelson made it 18-9 with a penalty in the 32nd minute after his U.S. counterpart was called offside. The U.S. kept coming and Germishuys went over again from a driving maul for a converted try and a 25-9 lead at the break.
The wind picked up in the second half, making life difficult for both sides.
De Haas added a long-distance drop goal, off a Canadian goal-line dropout, in the 49th minute to extend the lead to 28-9. The U.S. scrum half made it 33-9 two minutes later, scoring a solo try after charging down a Ross Braude box kick and racing for the try-line.
The U.S. onslaught continued in the rain with the American scrum exerting control. A Canadian penalty deep in its own end led to a U.S. lineout and Taufete'e scored off the back of another rolling maul to increase the lead to 28-29.
Coach Kingsley Jones named an unchanged starting lineup, a first for Canada in 153 tests dating back to 2000. The only change was among the replacements where veteran Kyle Baillie replaced Mason Flesch.
Canada's matchday 23 featured 10 members of the Toronto Arrows, including six in the starting 15.
The U.S. made seven changes.
MacGinty, who plays in England for Sale Sharks, started after coming off the bench last week after arriving late due to travel complications. The U.S. also started an entirely new front row with overseas pros David Ainu'u (Toulouse, France), Kapeli Pifeleti (Saracens, England) and Taufete'e (Lyon, France) moving up from the bench.
Ryan Matyas, Marcel Brache and Lopeti came into the backline.
Saturday's game was played at altitude and in hot conditions. It was 30 C at the 7 p.m. local time kickoff.
The Canadian men have never missed a World Cup, although they had to qualify the hard way last time out — winning a four-team repechage. The Americans have only failed to qualify once, in 1995.
Due to pandemic-related schedule interruptions, both teams had only played twice since the Japan World Cup with the matches coming in July's test window.
Canada lost 68-12 to No. 9 Wales and 70-14 to England in its lone action since falling 66-7 to eventual World Cup champion South Africa on Oct. 8, 2019. The Americans were beaten 43-29 by England and 71-10 by No. 4 Ireland in July.
At halftime Saturday, there was a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The Eagles also wore a commemorative logo on their jerseys. Prior to the game, there was a moment of silence in memory of American soldiers killed by a recent suicide bombing in Kabul.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 11, 2021
The Canadian Press