This month three international teams from the Americas were in action in the USA competing with three others in the eighth annual Churchill Cup. Denver had the honor of hosting all pool matches at the USA´s first ever rugby stadium, Infinity Park. The tournament was divided into two pools with Canada, France A and Uruguay in Pool A and England Saxons, Russia and the USA in pool B. The winners of the two pools met in the Cup Final with the runners up battling it out for the Plate Final and the third placed sides from the pools meeting in the Bowl Final. All three finals were played at the Red Bull Arena in Newark, New Jersey.
The North American teams both perfomed well in their first match, defeating Russia and Uruguay. In a highly entertaining match, in which Russia proved that they are a team to watch, the lead swaped hands regularly until the USA pulled away in the final 20 minutes to win 39-22. Remarkably, it was the first ever test match between the USA and Russia to be played in the USA and only the third match between the two overall. Future clashes are a certainty. Russia and the USA are both in Pool C of Rugby World Cup 2011 alongside Australia, Ireland and Italy. The Rugby World Cup clash between the former Cold War superpowers is an exciting prospect.
Canada´s 48-06 win over Uruguay is a record win and means that Uruguay have only won one of their eight matches against Canada. It was the start of a special tournament for the Canadians but a lesson for Los Teros who must adopt a better attacking game if they are to improve.
In the second round Canada exceeded all expectations in defeating France A, a fully professional team, 33-27 in a thrilling match. The win meant that Canada would appear in the Churchill Cup final for the first time in the tournaments eight year history. The USA were overpowered by the England Saxons who had come off a good win vs Russia. The result meant the USA finished second and would face France A in the Plate Final. Uruguay were well beaten by France A which meant they finished their in the pool and would meet Russia in the Bowl Final.
In the Cup Final the professional experiences of the England Saxons proved the difference with Nick Abendanon and Alex Goode both scoring tries and Stephen Myler kicking goals to give the English a 17-0 lead after 11 minutes. Canada, however, responded with Matt Evans and Chauncey O'Toole both scoring to bring the score to 17-10 after 20 minutes. The England Saxons kicked two penalties and Canada one for the score to be 23-13 at half time. With two tries to the English Canada were out of the game after 60 minutes but a late try to replacement center, Ryan Smith, meant the game finished with 38-18 a win to the English.
France A bounced back from defeat to Canada to defeat the USA 24-10 in the Plate Final. The score line does not do justice to the performance of the USA Eagles. In a competitive first half, the USA scored first with a try to Stade Françãis wing Julien Arias. Scott Lavalla scored a beautiful try for the USA to bring scores to 7 all. Following a period of pick and go on the American line, French prop, Yannick Forestier scored a try to put the French 14-7 ahead at half time. After the break Nese Malifa kicked a penatly to narrow the lead to four points but Lionel Beauxis soon kicked a penalty for the visitors. The Eagles were only one try behind for 30 minutes of the second half but a second try to Julien Arias late in the match gave the visitors the win. For the hosts, there is plenty of reason to be happy with strong performances from Zee Ngwenya, Chris Wyles and Scott Lavalla.
Russia showed their strength in toppling the two time Rugby World Cup participants, Uruguay, 38-19 to win the Bowl Final. With tries to Vasily Artemyev, Victor Gresev, Alexander Yanyushkin and Alexey Makovetskiy and three conversions, Russia had an impressive 26-5 lead at half time. Uruguay improved their defense after the interval and Juan DeFreitas and Manuel Martinez both scored tries but the Russian Bears were always in control.