Saturday, October 16, 2010

Canada Take Silver at the 2010 Americas Rugby Championship

The second annual Americas Rugby Championship is all said and done with this years hosts, Argentina, having few problems in collecting the Gold medal. According to recent history and the state of the game in all four competiting countries, Los Jaguares were always considered strong favoriutues for the title. The real battle was to be fought over who would finish second with the remaining three teams all capable of taking home silver.

Tonga are a well respeted team in international rugby. They defeated Samoa and the USA at Rugby World Cup 2007 and defeated Italy at Rugby World Cup 1999. Canada and the United States are also well respected sides but the common perception that most rugby sources give is that Tonga are a better side or in the least equal. It was therefore highly positive for the teams representing Canada and the United States to both defeat the Tongans. It is an indication that rugby in North America is truely progressing.

Defeating Tonga alone, however, was not going to be satisfactory for the Candians or U.S. players. Rather, the battle for silver is something highly important to both teams and tonights clash in Cordoba, Argentina was a true war to see who can say they are the best from North America and the second best from the Americas. As is often the case when Canada and the United States go head-to-head, the match was not high scoring. At half time the USA Selects were winning by a score of only 3-0 thanks to a penalty goal from flyhalf Valanese Malifa. It could have been more but the USA had to play 10 minutes with one player short as Chris Biller was yellow carded in the 21st minute. After the break, Canada evened scores quickly through the highly talented 20 year old flyhalf, Connor Braid in the third minute. With Braid´s second penalty three minutes later the Canadian Selects took the lead 6-3. Malifa scored next in the 22nd minute of the second half to even the scores but this would be the last time the USA Selects would score in the match. Replacement prop, Jason Marshall scored the games only try while Braid kicked two more penalties to seal a 17-6 victory for the Canada Selects.

In the days second match the home side enjoyed their third win of the tournament to lift the cup as undefeated champions. After Tonga scored first points with a penalty to Fangatapu Apikotoa in the first minute of play, Argentina took control to lead 18-3 at half time thanks to tries to Martín Landajo and Agustín Gosio as well as one conversion and two penalties to former Stade Français and Perpignan flyhalf, Ignacio Mieres. The second half was a different affair with Argentina taking its foot off the pedal. The hosts did score 10 more points but conceeded 17 to close out the match with a 28-20 victory. Apikotoa kicked one penalty and converted a try scored by Damien Fakafanua to close the game only for Juan Imhoff to respond with a try to Los Jaguares which Nicolás Sánchez converted. With time up on the clock, the Argentineans were winning 28-15 but Fine Vea Mesui Lenoto did well to score a try to close the gap to lose by a respectable 8 points.

Tonga did themselves proud in competing well in the tournament but the fact that they were winless and defeated Chile by only 2 points (32-30) is firm evidence that the Americas Rugby Championship should be an Americas only tournament with Chile and / or Uruguay participating in 2011. Tonga have the Pacific Nations Cup which involves Fiji, Japan and Samoa whilst Chile and Uruguay have no comparable tournament but will provide similar opposition to the three Americas powers as Tonga did in this years Americas Rugby Championship.

Interestingly, Chile and Uruguay both hosted and defeated the United States during qualifying matches for Rugby World Cup 2003 and Uruguay qualified ahead of the United States as Americas 2 for Australia 2023. The IRB has work to do because as it stands South America is not getting treated fairly. Uruguay did play today in Cordoba ahead of Canada Selects vs USA Selects as they took on Cordoba´s Los Dogos and won 21-0. Uruguay used the encounter to experiment ahead of the do or die Rugby World Cup qualification home and away series vs Romania this november.


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