With the growth of American rugby and that country’s depth of quality athletes, it’s inevitable, really, that the U.S. will overtake Canada in rugby someday.
It was a surprise on Tuesday, however, when the Americans pulled off their first win in the Americas Rugby Championship since 2010 beating Canada 30-10 at Westhills Stadium. After all, Canada is coming off a two-game sweep of the U.S. in the Rugby World Cup qualifiers in August.
The U.S. Eagles select XV weren’t particularly dominant as the Canada ‘A’ squad struggled with ball handling and were seldom able to mount an attack beyond two or three phases.
The Canadians (1-1) now face Argentina (2-0) in the final match of the ARC on Saturday, 8 p.m. at Westhills Stadium. Argentina won the early game on Tuesday, a 34-10 win in an all-South American match against Uruguay. Canada defeated Uruguay 17-10 in Game 1 on on Friday.
“It sucks that we didn’t get those lucky breaks that can change the game, but that’s the way it goes,” said Canadian winger Jordan Wilson-Ross. The imported James Bay AA player, from Alliston, Ont., was one of his team’s bright spots.
Rugby World Cup veteran Adam Kleeberger, wearing No. 8, stepped in as captain on Tuesday and was also promising at times. But nothing could go right long enough for Canada to score a try. The U.S. simply made less mistakes and grew more confident as the game wore on, while creeping ahead on the solid kicking of fullback Joe Cowley who hit three penalties, two of them from (approximately) 45 yards, while converting all three U.S. tries.
“There’s some things to work on but I still have confidence in our team, we have to have a short memory for Saturday,” Kleeberger said.
At the centre of Canada’s attack was 18-year-old fly half Giuseppe Du Toit (Maple Ridge). A Shawnigan Lake grad in June, Du Toit leapfrogged Canada’s under-20 program, which competed at the Junior World Rugby Trophy, and went from the U18 B.C. rugby team this past summer to the UVic Vikes in September and now the ARC. Clearly coach Kieran Crowley has a lot of faith in Du Toit, as do the team.
“Going to the Vikes was a step up, and now it’s another step up, but that’s how it is in rugby, you’ve got to rise to the occasion,” Du Toit said.
Other than a couple of erroneous passes from Du Toit the knock-ons, ball drops and other mistakes were spread evenly among the backs and forwards. Canada’s attack was far from crisp, but shouldn’t fall on the shoulders of the young rookie, said Kleeberger.
“Full credit to Giuseppe for trusting himself, I’d trust him again any day to make a kick,” Kleeberger said. “There’s always going to be that pressure (on Du Toit), he’s a mature player, he showed it in practice all week, he positioned himself well today in the game, and I don’t think he was out of position, still a guy we can trust.”
Canada’s biggest bumble of the game, and there were many, came midway through the second half. Down 16-3, a miscommunication meant no tee was brought to Du Toit, who had elected to kick a routine penalty goal. After a delay, he ended up rushing the kick, as the ball was held in place by a winger. He missed, and just moments later the Americans galloped to a try. It was the crushing blow for Canada.
“I don’t know what to say about that,” said the frustrated Du Toit. “Preparation this week was a good atmosphere and we were focused, the result just wasn’t there. I’m really excited now for Saturday, it’s a big game against Argentina and hopefully we can turn it around.”
Centre Conor Trainor scored Canada’s only try which Du Toit converted. The fly half also hit one penalty goal.
Canada had opened the tournament with a 17-10 of Uruguay (0-2). The latter will face U.S.A. (1-1) at 6 p.m. on Saturday.