Canada defeated the USA 27-9 in the opening leg of the teams' two-game World Cup Qualifier series Saturday at Blackbaud Stadium in Charleston, SC.
Canada scored in the first three minutes, and put the USA on their heels from then on. The Eagles played a poor game. Their tactic of box kicking just flat didn't work, they didn't move the ball when they had it, and they made far too many errors.
The USA won the kickoff and scrumhalf Mike Petri box-kicked. The chase was there but both Taku Ngwenya and Eric Fry went in on a tackle. That left a hole for Phil Mack, who picked up the ball, raced downfield, kicked ahead, and chased in to score.
James Pritchard hit the difficult conversion and Canada led 7-0 with three minutes done.
The Eagles did have the ball after that, but they struggled to break through a staunch Canadian defense. After some good phase work the Eagles got a penalty about 42 meters out. Chris Wyles struck the ball straight, but it was short.
Canada made their mistakes, also, and turned the ball over in the USA 22. They had Ngwenya available to run in space, but didn't use him.
The Eagles continued the box kicks. One worked - Blaine Scully did well to catch it in the air, but others did not - ball lost, out on the full, or no territory gained.
Canada extended their lead 14 minutes in when the Eagles were pinged for coming in from the side. Pritchard, who would not miss all day, slammed the kick home to make it 10-0.
Canada did find themselves committing penalties, and USA captain Todd Clever was repeatedly asking for referee Leighton Hodges to show a card. Jebb Sinclair was penalized three times in quick succession, and Jamie Cudmore was penalized for taking a USA jump out in the air. The penalties were given, but no card. On one penalty, Wyles had another shot. This one hit the post.
Canada seemed to score a try at 22 minutes when they ran a nice switch move with center Nick Blevins. He was away, and then passed off to Mack who went over the line.
But the TMO saw that Scott LaValla had been blocked off the ball and the play was called back.
The scissor move would come back to haunt the Eagles later on.
On that play, the USA lost center Seamus Kelly to what seemed to be a knee injury. Roland Suniula stepped in and played well.
Canada didn't really run the phases well, but they defended superbly and forced turnovers and made the field a lot longer for the Eagles. A penalty against Shawn Pittman for impeding the halfback set up a kick for Pritchard, and it was good. 13-0 Canada.
The Eagles opened the second half with some strong scrummaging that forced a penalty. Wyles was good on this kick to make it 13-3.
And when Ngwenya made a great play to gather in a dangerous kick, and Brian Doyle foiled a Canadian lineout five meters out, it seemed as if there was enough fight in the Eagles to mount a comeback.
But the box kick hurt them again. this one saw two missed tackles give Canada some space. Mack almost made the tryline, and then after a few runs at the line from the forwards, Mack fed a nice flat ball to flyhalf Harry Jones for the try. This was exactly the type of play - aggressive, physical, quick ball, and hard, confident running - that the USA lacked.
Pritchard, of course, made the kick and Canada led 20-3.
After several penalties (and no card) by Canada, the Eagles failed to score a try, but got another penalty attempt for Wyles. The fullback was successful to make it 20-6.
But Canada got those three back, and more. After Todd Clever - nursing what looked like a dislocated finger - knocked the ball on at the base of the scrum, Canada attacked from the scrum, and sent Blevins through on another switch move. He was hauled down, but quick ball out to DTH Van Der Merwe created another try. Pritchard kicked the goal and it was 27-6.
After that the USA opened the game up a bit. Realizing they needed tries, they passed the ball more and took a few risks. They mainly paid off, but once near the line, the Eagles reverted to type, slowed down, looked worried about screwing up, and promptly screwed up.
Wyles kicked one more penalty, but that was it- Canada 27 USA 9.
To qualify as Americas #1, the USA will need to beat Canada by 19 or more. That is something they have never done - their best winning margin ever is 15. But to even come close, they have to either do better in executing, chasing, and supporting the box kick or, preferably, put the entire tactic in the circular file.
And they need to move the ball with confidence, especially when they are in the opposition 22.
On the plus side, the scrums were good, Taku Ngwenya was active all over the field, and Titi Lamositele set a record as the youngest Eagle ever at 18 years and 188 days.
But another number will sit in the USA craw - 17 - the number of times they turned the ball over.
|World Cup Qualifier 1st Leg Rosters
|DTH Van Der Merwe
|Ray Barkwill for Hamilton at 40
||Zach Fenoglio for Biller at 70
||Titi Lamositele for Pittman at 70
|Doug Wooldridge for Tiedermann at 70
||Phil Thiel for Fry at 60
|Tyler Hotson for Cudmore at 40
||Brian Doyle for Dahl at 37
|Nanyak Dala for Carpenter at 64
||Cameron Dolan for Stanfill at 72
|Sean White for Mack at 75
||Robbie Shaw for Petri at 70
|Nathan Hirayama for Jones at 66
||Folau Niua for L'Estrange at 66
|Phil Mackenzie for Evans at 64
||Roland Suniula for Kelly at 25
Pens: Wyles 3
Tries: Mack, Jones, Van Der Merwe
Convs: Pritchard 3
Pens: Pritchard 2