Thursday, August 12, 2010

IRB Americas Rugby Championship 2009

In September and October 2009, Canada and the USA hosted the first ever Americas Rugby Championship which was specifically organized to provide leading American rugby countries with an opportunity of getting match ready to play at the top level. Six teams competed and were separated into two different stages. The first involved four teams, all Canadian who competed over a set of round-robin matches with the top two meeting again in the Final.

The four teams were organized geographically. The Pacific province of British Colombia, which is a stronghold of Canadian rugby, had a team based in the largest city, Vancouver. The team was called the BC Bears. Another strong Canadian province, Ontario was awarded its own team which went by the name of the Ontario Blues and was based in Canada´s largest city, Toronto. The name of another team was the Prairie Wolf Pack which was based in Calgary but was representing all three states located between British Colombia and Ontario - i.e. Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Finally, there was an Atlantic selection which consisted of the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Foundland & Labrador and Quebec. The team, known as The Rock, was based in St. Johns, New Foundland & Labrador.

The winner of the Canadian Final, which doubled as the first semi-final would go on to face the winner of the international semi-final match, between the other two teams in the tournament - the Argentina Jaguars and the USA Select XV. In the first semi-final Denver, Colorado played host to the USA Select XV vs Argentina Jaguars. It was a game to better understand the depth of both countries talent pools and to prepare for the November international window when the USA played home and away qualifying matches vs Uruguay and Argentina toured the United Kingdom.

The game was an 8 try to 1 thrashing in snowy conditions as one of Argentina's young talented flyhalves, Benjamin Urdapilleta, was able to control proceedings after his forwards overpowered the North Americans. Urdapilleta scored 22 points, including the games first try in the first minute of the match. When winger, Martin Bustos Moyano scored 6 minutes latter, the Jaguars were winning 12-0 and looking like running away with the game. The USA Select XV scored their first points through a penalty to San Francisco centre, Volney Rouse in the 13th minute but the resolve of the Jaguars was unchanged as promising second rower, Carlos Caceres scored a try two minutes latter which Urdapilleta converted and then kicked a penalty in the 23rd minute to give the visitors a 22-3 lead. USA Select XV's Outside centre, Corey Blair, scored the games next points when he scored the only try for the North Americans in the 29th minute. Rouse converted to encourage the home side but, again, with Jaguars players trying their best to impress the Pumas selectors, they scored two more first half tries with sevens star, and Jaguars centre Horacio San Martin scoring in the 32nd minute and backrower Leonardo Senatore in the 34th. Urdapilleta converted both.

The Jaguars scored 21 points in the second half with the backs again dominating. The first was scored by fullback, Lucas Berra Oro, in the 45th minute, the second by wing, Juan Imhoff and the third by replacement fullback, Federico Nicolas Sanchez 3 minutes from full time. The USA Select XV failed to score a point in the second half.

In the second semifinal the BC Bears completed a perfect season by defeating the Ontario Blues 12-8 at MacDonald Park in Victoria, BC to remain undefeated. It was a drastically different game to the first semifinal with only one try scored in a tight game dominated by the forwards and by kicking with plenty of highballs put up by both sides. The Blues had the better of play early on but the favourites showed just how good they are by not panicing and were able to control play as the game went on. The backs were not able to contribute to the game as the defense of both sides cancelled out both teams backlines. The defence was strong but came at a cost for the visitors as they gave away kickable penalties which ultimately cost them the match. Ontario Blues Flyhalf, Steve Piatek, summed it up well in saying “We did everything well, including giving up penalties. We’ll just have to take this into next week and prove we should’ve won today. It’s always fun to beat up on the Americans.”

The Blues scored the games first points as Piatek, kicked a first half penalty. Sadly, for his team it would be the only goal scored for Ontario. They scored the games only try early on in the game with centre, Mike Scholz scoring. The Bears were losing and needed to respond well in the second half. They did as Nathan Hirayama continued his good form to finish the game with four penalities to give the Bears victory and in doing so win the MacTier Cup as Canadian champions for 2009.

The finals can be seen on the video below. Ontario Blues won the Bronze final 27-24 vs the USA Select XV and the BC Bears were undone in losing 35-11 to the Argentina Jaguars.

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