Saturday, June 24, 2017

Canada, Eagles Tied After Leg One Of RWC Qualifying

Next week in San Diego will be a winner take all match for the Eagles and Canada after the teams played to a 28-28 tie in the first leg of their World Cup qualifying series in Hamilton, Ontario. Neither team looked their sharpest on the day with each having bright spots but also letting the other team in with easy mistakes. From the Eagles point of view they would have liked to come away with the win and even led 28-18 with just a little more than ten minutes to go. At the same time they have to be happy they aren't heady into the second leg with a deficit and can use their home crowd to their advantage next week.

A strong wind coming off Lake Ontario and butting up against Niagara Escarpment played a factor into the match early as Canada had a chance to take the lead only to see Shane O'Leary miss his first attempt. Still, Canada came out with a lot of energy and led by captain DTH van der Merwe were able to make a lot of good things happen. van der Merwe especially helped get the team going and was a centerpiece of the match's opening try thanks to some nice handling from the Canadian backs. With the conversion Canada took a 7-0 lead.

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Nearly instantly the Eagles responded with a try of their own. They were able to grab the restart and one pass from Marcel Brache set up Nick Civetta for the score. AJ MacGinty would be on with the conversion--he had a solid day kicking all around--and the match was level at 7-7.

Despite the try Canada had the better rhythm earlier. The Eagles often looked disjointed in the backs and were struggling in the scrum. They were also having some trouble in the breakdown that Canada were able to exploit. That next opportunity for Canada came as van der Merwe smartly saw a gap in the U.S. defense, pulled the ball from the ruck, and rumbled into the corner. The conversion was off but Canada were up 12-7 and looking good.

Eventually the Eagles did settle down. Canada were able to grab another penalty to extend their lead to 15-7 but he U.S. fought back in the last ten minutes of the half. The second try for the Eagles came after they were finally able to grab some possession. The forwards were able to go to work and soon Civetta had his second try.

The U.S. also finished the half with an excellent team try. Showing good counterattacking skills MacGinty punted the ball over the defense. It was recovered by Mike Te'o who offloaded to Nate Augspurger. The pass wasn't the best so Augspurger soccer kicked it down the pitch. That put the U.S. close to the line and just a few passes later Te'o was in at the corner. Seemingly out of it for most of the half the Eagles were back in it at 21-15 at the break.

The second half didn't start in a bright way for the Eagles. James Hilterbrand was sent to the bin for a dangerous tackle on Phil Mack and O'Leary would hit a penalty to cut the lead to 21-18. However, all of that would change when Te'o scored a 95 meter intercept try. Canada were just meters out and looked certain to score with numbers on the wing. However, Te'o read the play perfectly and picked off the pass to go all the way to make it 28-18. The Eagles what could have turned into a deficit into a ten point advantage.

It was an advantage they would hold for much of the rest of the second half as a number of substitutions came on the pitch. Those substitutions seemed to shore up the Eagles put they still weren't able to put up many points. To add to the stress Cam Dolan was shown a yellow. The Eagles defense dug in and didn't yield any points while Dolan was off.

The game seemed to slow down for long parts of the second half as the hit took a toll on the players but it picked up with just a few minutes left. Knowing they needed to cut into the deficit to give themselves a chance in San Diego Canada dug in. They nearly had a try from Andrew Coe in the corner but a TMO review showed he lost control as he went to dot it down. Still, Canada kept the pressure on and had a try from Aaron Carpenter with about ten minutes to go. They would add a penalty a few minutes later to knot the score up at 28-28.

On the restart from the penalty the Eagles had a chance to make something happen but MacGinty couldn't connect on his drop goal. O'Leary couldn't connect on a penalty on the reverse end as full-time expired.

It's probably fitting that both teams played out to a draw. Each learned a lot about the other's performance today and will use that as ammunition for next week. You have to think that if the U.S. can get Tony Lamborn and Joe Taufete'e back healthy that should give than an advantage in addition to playing at home.


Tries: Civetta (2), Te'o (2)
Conversions: MacGinty (4)


Tries: van der Merwe (2), Carpenter
Conversions: O'Leary (2)
Penalties: O'Leary (2)


  1. The US are very fortunate to be leaving Canada level. The Canadian team were the more fluid, creative and sound team. If they eliminate the mistakes they made then they will walk away winners.

  2. If the goal is to win two games at the World Cup it might be best if the Eagles lost to Canada. Qualify as Americas 2 and we get put in Pool D with Georgia and Oceania 1. Pool C is a much tougher road to two wins.

  3. Yes Eagles were lucky to tie. Canada has a man advantage, an overlap looking to score and it turns into a 90 meter try the other way. Another try overturned by lack of grounding, plus a couple of 5 meter mauls that the Canadians couldn't finish off. Several penalties against the Eagles scrum does not give any confidence going forward. If they can somehow pick it up and win in San Diego the silver lining is a potential forward pack of Lamositele, Taufete, Ryan, Civetta, Peterson, Manoa, Lamborn and Dolan with Tameilau an impact sub at least looks professional. Throw in Scully and that is a decent team. Still need to find a consistent scrumhalf.

  4. As Americas 1, the Eagles would face England, France, Argentina, and Oceania 2; as Americas 2, Australia, Wales, Georgia, and Oceania 1. The Eagles just lost to Georgia, and Oceania 1 is likely to be Fiji, which just beat #4-ranked Scotland (minus a half dozen Lions). On current form, we could expect a competitive match against either Georgia or Oceania 2, but none of the other three teams in either pool. Form is likely to change in the next two years, but there isn't much difference between pools C and D for the Eagles right now. There's no chance of getting what looks like the weakest pool (A), and we want to avoid facing New Zealand and South Africa as the Repechage winner in B.