Canada enters the 50th test against the USA comfortably ahead in the series – leading 36-12-1.
Following a three-year period of 2003-2005 when the teams were relatively even (3-3 with USA 11 points better than Canada), Canada has dominated the series, winning nine times, sometimes by wide margins, and losing just once.
But some of the Canada wins have been, well, hard to explain. In the 2009 World Cup Qualifier in Edmonton, a series of huge USA blunders gifted Canada four tries in the first half. In 2011, some more weird USA plays, including a really ill-advised quick lineout near their own tryline, helped Canada to a 28-22 victory.
Also in 2011, the USA dominated possession for the first half, but couldn’t score, and lost 27-7. Last year, a poorly-covered kick handed the winning try to Canada’s Aaron Carpenter (28-25), and this year, one muff in a lineout awarded the only try to Canada in a 16-9 USA loss.
After a while, it becomes a pattern. The USA makes mistakes, and Canada, led by opportunistic No. 8 Aaron Carpenter, not only punishes their rivals, but often to the tune of seven points.
“In training we are always watching video and looking for that one opportunity or break that could be the difference between teams on the day,” Carpenter told RUGBYMag.com. “I believe that is the biggest difference at the moment between the two team knowing what and where to look for opportunities in the opposition’s video.”
In other words, it is part of the way they play. Interestingly, though, the desire to punish mistakes also means the Canadians recover from mistakes really well. If someone misses a tackle, everyone gets back to fix the error, not just a couple. They realize how crucial mistakes can be.
“I don't think it is any magic thing,” Crowley said about Canada winning those close games. “As coaches we try to instill a positive attitude into everything they do and our training sessions involve a lot of game orientated games that gives them the confidence to have a go. In the end their skill set has to be able to execute under pressure and that is what we are trying to help them develop.”
“Kieran has really put the onus on the players to go away look at the video and see if we come up with similar points to himself and the other coaches,” added Carpenter, “and if we don’t he will enlighten us and we know to look for that in the future.”
Canada is coming off a good round of results in the Pacific Nations Cup, where only a close loss to Japan scuttled their chances of winning the whole thing.
“t was a pretty difficult summer,” said Carpenter. “But we pushed through it and came out with some great results. That Japan game was always going to be a really tough one and it would have been nice to win that game and the PNC tournament. I think we are going to have to work a bit harder on our last 15 to 20 minutes of games, because we seem to be mentally switched on for 65 minutes and then in the last bit we let both Ireland and Tonga score a few tries and let Japan score a late in the game that changed the momentum of that game.”