The USA U20s were put to the club by Canada to the tune of 46-12 on Tuesday in Edmonton, Alberta.
The game was very tight in the first half, and were it not for some ball-handling mistakes, the Eagles might have been ahead at the break. But the second half was all Canada, as the bigger, more powerful host team hammered the Americans when the USA had the ball and tested tacklers when Canada had possession.
The USA was on top early, however. Canada was penalized right off the kickoff, and the USA went for the lineout. From there, a maul and a couple of surges to the line set up lock Dameon Torres for the try. But right from the restart, the Americans gave the initiative away. A knock-on led to a Canada scrum, and then the forwards went to work, eventually putting lock Matt Buekeboom over. Somehow, flyhalf Will Kelly hit the post from in front, so the score remained 5-5.
But then the story of the game began to unfold. The USA tried to go wide, and often the final pass would bounce off someone's face or hit the deck. To add insult to mistake, it was Canada that scored off open play -- a wild pass was tipped by the USA defenders and landed in the hands of wing Anton Ngongo, who raced in for the try.
The USA looked to come back, and after a couple of penalties, scrumhalf Ruben de Haas tapped and popped to Lorenzo Thomas. The center got to the line in what was originally signaled a try by referee Chris Assmus, but then Assmus opted to check with his assistant referee, asking not "was it a knock-on" but "did you see a clear grounding." It was a loaded question, and the AR, not having seen a confirmed grounding, couldn't confirm the try, which was disallowed.
From the ensuing scrum, No. 8 Jake Thiel picked up and rambled 40 meters and out of trouble. The USA got the ball back and used Harley Wheeler and Malon Al-Jiboori to some effectiveness but kept making key errors. Eventually, a lineout for Canada set up a crashball for Thiel, who then linked up with his brother, Josh, and the center was over.
Then, just before halftime, some good teamwork and another nice run from Wheeler allowed Al-Jiboori to go over. While that made it 19-12 at the break, the optimism for the USA team died quickly in the second half. Fullback Aidan McMullan sliced through for a long-range try. Kelly added a penalty before scrumhalf Fraser Hurst picked up and ran right down the middle for a 34-12 lead. Sub forward Jamie McNaughton intercepted a pass to go in under the posts, and then, from deep in its own end, Canada showed that if you're big but not fast, you can still draw a man and dish to the open support player.
Cole Davis did the rest for the try and the 46-12 victory.
It was a humbling experience for the U20s. They did not defend well, falling off tackles and having an especially tough time tackling Thiel at No. 8. Offensively, the young Eagles didn't have the consistency of passing they needed to keep the attacks going. Al-Jiboori put in a full day's work, and prop Jake Jorstad was powerful in the tackle. Fullback Cristian Rodriguez was elusive, but it wasn't a consistent performance.
These two teams go at it again Saturday as a curtain-raiser for the Canada versus Romania game at Ellerslie Rugby Park in Edmonton. The winner of the aggregate score in the two gams qualifies for the World Rugby Junior Trophy finals in Uruguay in August.
USA 12Tries: Torres, Al-Jiboori
Convs: de Haas
Canada 46Tries: Buekeboom, Ngongo, Josh Thiel, McMullan, Hurst, McNaughton, Davis
Convs: Kelly 4