In a one of the most thrilling U.S.-Canada matches in history the Eagles snapped their seven match losing streak to Canada with a dramatic 38-35 win. The match was a back and forth affair with both teams putting in sizeable scoring runs with the U.S. getting the final run.
The Eagles began the match extremely active. After winning a penalty on the scrum, something the entire forward pack celebrated, the team slowly worked the ball down the field inching closer to the tryline. Eventually they earned a penalty which Chris Wyles would step up to hit in front of the posts to make it 3-0 with just three minutes gone.
Wyles would then add to that lead just a few minutes later. The U.S. once again showed promise going forward and when Phil Mack was sent to the bin for cynically killing the ball Wyles added the penalty to make it 6-0 with ten minutes gone.
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Canada’s penalties were their undoing early. Not only did they allow the Eagles to pick up possession and points but it prevented Canada from getting anything going on the offensive end. However, they eventually settled in and found their rhythm. They nearly had a try in 20th minute when the ball was spill by the Eagles and Canada tried to kick into space. However, an intervention at the last minute from Brett Thompson forced the ball out.
Still, Canada just kept on coming. Only a minute later Canada once again found the ball in Eagles territory after sloppy play. This time they wouldn’t make any mistakes and a pass from Mack, who had come back on just a minute earlier, out of the breakdown to Harry Jones put him through to make it 7-6 after James Pritchard hit the conversion.
But as the back and forth match would prove, that lead would only last a minute as Blaine Scully restored the Eagles advantage. Todd Clever made a huge run that put the Eagles near the tryline. The ball then found it’s way into the hands of Chris Wyles, who was brought down short of the line but did well to offload to Scully for the try. Wyles couldn’t hit the conversion but the Eagles still led 11-7.
Canada had a chance to respond on the restart when the U.S. was hit for obstruction but Pritchard uncharacteristically missed. Instead it would be the Eagles to score next. Danny Barrett did well to take the ball out of the back of the scrum and made a 40 meter run. Once caught the ball went through several quick phases before ending up in the hands of Wyles for the try. This time he would hit the conversion and the Eagles led 18-7.
That’s when the wheels fell off for the Eagles. Shalom Suniula sent in a kick that he probably shouldn’t have trying to release his backs. Canada easily receovered and quickly swung the ball out wide. Thompson once again stopped Canada form recovering the kick but it did give Canada a 5 meter scrum. From that scrum Aaron Carpenter rumbled over to make it 18-14.
Canada would score against just a few minutes later when Pritchard recovered a chip. Ciaran Hearn would be the next to score. The U.S. failed to hold him in the tackle and he sprung up to run uncontested 40 meters for the try. That made the halftime score 28-18.
It was a terrible 10 minutes to end the half for the Eagles as their defense came up wanting time and time again. Credit to the Canadian backs for doing well and punishing mistakes. It would only get worse as the second half began with Harry Jones scoring an all to easy try to increase the lead to 35-18 and cap off a 28 point run.
However, the match swung once again in favor of the Eagles. Eventually the Eagles settled down and when Jebb Sinclair was sent to the bin for killing the ball the U.S. were able to hit another penalty to make it 21-35.
Then six minutes later taking an offload from Nick Wallace, Todd Clever made a long run that put the Eagles in good territory. They couldn’t punch through on several efforts but when the ref called the ball back for an earlier advantage Clever took the quick kick and a few phases later the Scully crossed over for his second of the match and fifth in two weeks. Wyles would hit the conversion and then a penalty roughly ten minutes later to make it 35-31 with roughly 13 minutes left.
With ten minutes left the Eagles retook the lead. Tom Coolican blocked a kick that the U.S. recovered. Once again they quickly played the ball, something that helped them all day. A great pass from Folau Niua skipped over a few defenders to Brett Thompson who would slide into the corner.
The U.S. defense would then seal the match as they came up big by creating turnovers at opportune moments. Canada had possession but weren’t able to get much going as the U.S. would steal the ball or force them to work from deep.
Canada did have the opportunity to win the match at the end. Jones made a break that caught the U.S. defense sleeping. However, a try saving tackle from Mike Petri halted Canada’s momentum. For several minutes and multiple phases Canada worked to the try line. Eventually they earned a penalty advantage after LaValla killed the ball earning 10 minutes in the bin. Rather than go for the posts from a difficult angle Canada elected to go for the try. It wasn’t successful at first but once again they had a penalty advantage. Again Canada elected to not go for the difficult points and the U.S. turned it over to preserve the score.
The difference in the match came down to the Eagles defensive work. Aside from the dreadful ten minute span that allowed Canada to run off their 28 point run the U.S. defense did well to stop any Canadian opportunities. The U.S. also won the scrum battle for the first time in a long time. Offensively they had another strong outing. Canada did look threatening but it also looked as if they tired more easily than the U.S. in the hot sun.
The Eagles will take the win as they build toward the World Cup. The program needed a positive result and to avoid two straight winless summers. The team can now focus on the positives and look ahead to the All Blacks in November.