The Pacific Northwest gets its wet weather in part from an air stream that comes from Hawaii, known often as the Pineapple Express, but a different Hawaiian Express raced through Vancouver Saturday night, as Martin Iosefo's late try gave the USA its only lead in a 20-15 defeat of Canada at BC Place.
In a very physical and decidedly imperfect game, the Eagles squandered several prime scoring opportunities, and Canada brought the grit and pride they will need to be successful at the World Cup.
Things started poorly for the Eagles after captain Blaine Scully took a high ball inside his own half. Only one forward was able to get back to help fullback Will Hooley win that ruck, and the Canadians swarmed in, won the ball, and scrumhalf Gordon McRorie scampered around the weak side for an early 7-0 lead for the hosts.
The Eagles pressured after that, and had a prime scoring opportunity with a lineout just a few meters from the Canadian tryline. But the resulting maul splintered, and Ben Landry was left alone in front of everyone, obstructing. Penalty to Canada, and pressure relieved.
Soon thereafter, Canada exerted their own pressure, punishing a series of penalties to get deep into the USA 22. From there, another penalty allowed flyhalf Peter Nelson-Dungannon to tap quickly and head for the corner. Only USA flanker John Quill was able to do anything. Quill appeared to tackle Nelson-Dungannon into touch, but additional review from referee Alex Ruiz resulted in a try called for Canada, and a 12-0 lead.
The Eagles got three back with a nicely-taken long-range kick from Will Magie, but the game became a stop-start slog for much of the rest of the first half.
Then, with time almost up in the first half, the Eagles got a scrum near the Canadian line. A massive shove from props Eric Fry and especially Titi Lamositele crushed the Canada pack, and it was a simple matter of picking up the ball and spinning out of a tackle for Cam Dolan to score the try.
Magie added the extras and the teams went into the locker rooms with Canada leading 12-10. Both teams showed the effects of the physicality, but Canada was suffering more, with several players having to take an early seat.
The second half started well for Canada, with Nelson-Dungannon whacking over a kick from almost 50 meters. That put his side ahead 15-10, but the Eagles almost got that back when flanker Hanco Germishuys charged down a box kick attempt.
The ball was gathered by DTH van der Merwe, but Germishuys was able to shove the wing into touch, and from that lineout, the Eagles mauled it over, with hooker Dylan Fawsitt at the bottom of the pile.
That tied it up 15-15 with still 30 minutes to go. Moments later, a nifty run from Mike Te'o set up the Eagles and they were right back on the front foot.
After a few forward surges near the line the backs got it, and a laser pass from Will Hooley set up Iosefo for what seemed to be the go-ahead try. But the pass was forward, and everyone came back for a penalty against Canada.
That penalty seemed like a good opportunity for a penalty kick attempt, but Scully opted for the scrum, and from there the Eagles were halted by some excellent Canada defense, and the game remained tied.
It has been the honor of my life to represent the United States. Grateful to all who have and continue to support me on this journey. Work still to do and onto the next job. https://t.co/CtQLBJa8kT— Blaine Scully (@BlaineScully1) September 8, 2019
Again they bashed against each other. Canada started to get stronger in the scrum, but couldn't see to crack the USA forwards' maul defense. Canadian wing Jeff Hassler was used to crash through, but the Eagles defense held. but neither team was able to string enough elements together to look like scoring.
Then, a hero in an unlikely position. Paul Lasike, not know for his kicking boot, cleared nicely to get his side out of trouble. The resulting lineout was overthrown and Fawsitt took the ball ahead, followed then by Greg Peterson.
The Americans then were forced to kick, but the kick worked as the USA defense forced a dropped ball and that ball was quickly sent wide to Lasike, who heaved the ball wider to Iosefo.
The sevens star still had work to do. He just steamrolled Matt Heaton and then outpaced the final Canada defender to go in at the corner. It was a fine moment for Iosefo and the USA had the lead, 20-15, with less than ten minutes to go.
It was a nailbiting ten minutes for both sets of fans, as scrum upon scrum saw the time tick away. Finally, with time up, Canada got a penalty, and took the lineout. Once again they mauled, and once again the USA defense was there.
Phase after phase Canada kept trying to find some way through. The USA bench stepped up, with Malon Al-Jiboori getting involved several times. Finally, a nice gang tackle by Lasike and Marcel Brache, and the poach attempt by Fawsitt sealed the deal. Turnover good, ball playable, and referee Ruiz whistled the game.
It wasn't pretty, but it was gritty, and the USA had won again.
Tries: Dolan, Fawsitt, Iosefo
Tries: McRorie, Nelson-Dungannon
USA lineup vs Canada
1. Eric Fry; 2. Joe Taufete'e; 3. Titi Lamositele; 4. Ben Landry; 5. Greg Peterson; 6. HancoGermishuys; 7. John Quill; 8. Cam Dolan; 9. Nate Augspurger; 10. Will Magie; 11. Martin Iosefo; 12. Paul Lasike; 13. Marcel Brache; 14. Blaine Scully (C); 15. Will Hooley
16. Dylan Fawsitt; 17. Olive Kilifi; 18. Paul Mullen; 19. Nate Brakeley; 20. Malon Al-Jiboori; 21. Shaun Davies; 22. Bryce Campbell; 23. Mike Te'o
Canada lineup vs USA
1. Hubert Buydens; 2. Eric Howard; 3. Matthew Tierney; 4. Evan Olmstead; 5. Kyle Baillie; 6. Justin Blanchet; 7. Lucas Rumball; 8. Tyler Ardron (C); 9. Gordon McRorie; 10. Peter Nelson- Dungannon; 11. DTH van der Merwe; 12. Ciaran Hearn; 13. Ben LeSage; 14. Jeff Hassler; 15. Patrick Parfrey
16. Andrew Quattrin; 17. Djustice Sears-Duru; 18. Jake Ilnicki; 19. Mike Sheppard; 20. Matt Heaton; 21. Jamie Mackenzie; 22. Shane O'Leary; 23. Nick Blevins