The state of rugby in both the United States of America and Canada can be desribed as nothing other than growing after the second of two international matches in as many weeks was a huge success. Last weekend Canada vs the USA took place in Toronto with Canada recording its largest ever crowd for a home fixture vs the old enemy. The second fixture, this time hosted by the USA, was a sell-out at the home of USA Rugby, Infinty Park in Glendale, Colorado in the greater region of Denver. The crowd of 4,000 at the rugby purpose-built facility were vocal and positive and certainly underline the fact that the USA and Canada, like Argentina, seriously lack home international matches.
Canada started the match as the better side and were awarded a penalty in the first minute of play with winger Ciarn Hearn attempting a kick at goal from 52 metres out. The attempt was not successful and the USA launched a counter-attack soon afterwards and after working their way into the Canadian 22, the USA Eagles had their chance to put points on the board as Nese Malifa lined up a penalty in the fourth minute. His kick drifted wide of the posts and the scores remained 0-0. Canada got the scoring underway in the sixth minute as Glasgow Warriors centre, DTH van der Merwe stole the ball and raced clear to score a try from halfway. Fullback, James Pritchard added the extras to put Canada ahead 7-0. Severla minutes latter Malifa had a second penalty goal attempt from around 24 metres out and missed again while at the other end Pritchard slotted one as Canada went ahead 10-7. van der Merwe was the best player on the park as he contributed to all of Canada´s three tries in the match.
Following the first try, the USA fought back strongly and were the better side in the second 20 minutes of the first half. Canada let themselves down with ill-discipline. Jebb Sinclair was penalized for a high tackle which saw the USA kick for a lineout and dominate possesion for around eight minutes. Canada started to lose patience and as such Jamie Cudmore was yellowcarded for playing the man without the ball. The USA fought on as Canada defended brilliantly but the Canadians found themselves with only 13 men on the park as backrower, Chauncey O´Toole joined Cudmore in the bin after putting his hands in the ruck. With five minutes remaining in the first half, Cudmore returned to the field as Canada continued to lead 10-0. With a few minutes remaining in the half, Taku Ngwenya went over for what looked like a try but it was turned down. It mattered not, however, as Malifa made up for his earleir mistakes as he put in a nice chip kick for fullback, Blaine Scully to chase through and score a try. Malifa added the extras from out wide as the USA cut the Canadian lead to three points.
Canada left its mark early after the re-start in scrumtime as, despite missing O´Toole to the sin bin, the Canadian scrum was able to get the better of the USA Eagles as Mike MacDonald appeared to be feeling the heat. O´Toole returned with the score still at 10-7 but was warned by the referee only one minute after returning. He nearly saw a yellow card, whcih would have been a red card as it was his second. The USA were having the better of play and a dubious referee´s call said no try after backrower, Lou Stanfill had gone over for the USA after a great break from Taku Ngwenya. The USA kept trying hard to get over the try line but were penalized five metres out and Canada were able to recover ground. Canada then responded strongly with backrower, Adam Kleeberger, offloading a pass to Ciarn Hearn who ran 50 metres to leave the USA feeling hard done by after being denied a try. USA frontrower, Chris Biller, was then yellow carded and Canada were able to go six points clear as Pritchard slotted a straight-forward penalty from 23 metres out.
Midway through the secondhalf, Canada looked to take control with Ander Monro controlling the game well from flyhalf and gaining lots of ground. Canada went ahead 20-7 in the 60th minute as DTH van der Merwe again showed his value as he broke out from the Canadian 22 as the USA were attacking. van der Merwe combined with Adam Kleeberger and Aaron Carpenter with the latter going over for a try. With Pritchard´s conversion, Canada opened up a 13 point lead. DTH van der Merwe did it again in the 71st minute as another break set up another try. This time the benefactor was Phil MacKenzie and Canada made it 27-7 following Pritchards´s successful conversion. The win puts Canada in great shape going into Rugby World Cup 2011 and wins over both Tonga and Japan are realistic goals. It was not the USA Eagles´ day today and they have reason to feel hard done by in conceeding three tries against the run of play and having one try denied. They too, nonetheless, have been playing good rugby and are in good shape with New Zealand 2011 starting in less than four weeks. Firstly, however, the USA face Japan in Tokyo next Sunday.