(Vancouver, British Columbia) 23 May 1998 -- Canada successfully defended a narrow lead throughout today's Canterbury of New Zealand Pacific Rim Rugby Championship match against the United States to claim a 17-15 win at Thunderbird Stadium, spoiling a gutsy American performance.
Winding up a three-week tour against a rested and full-strength Canadian side, the Eagles showed plenty of emotion, fighting hard to erase an 11-point deficit, but couldn't muster the precision needed to win.
As both teams scored a pair of tries, the difference was placekicking, specifically Gareth Rees' 30-meter penalty kick in the 55th minute for the Maple Leafs. With regular US flyhalf Matt Alexander called away from the team by a family emergency, fullback Chris Morrow stepped in to log one of three chances.
The US also had a try under the posts called back after the final pass went slightly forward.
"We're not playing for moral victories," US head coach Jack Clark said bluntly after the game. "We are very disappointed. We made some mistakes today at crucial points that hurt our chances, but they are fixable.
"I told the boys in the locker room that I was proud of them, that they played their guts out, that we were a bit unlucky and to keep their heads up."
The Canadians built a 7-3 lead at the half of a scrappy match. Both teams were guilty of numerous knock-ons, and Canada was gradually able to take advantage of the ensuing scrums, after the US lost two props to injury in the first half. Starter Chris Lippert twisted an ankle and was replaced by John McBride in the 28th minute. But McBride was injured just before the half, which thrust Denver Barbarians prop Bart Furrow onto the international stage for the first time.
Canada opened the scoring with an 18th-minute try to flanker Dan Baugh, who had a big game on both offense and defense. Fullback Scott Stewart set up the score with a sudden burst into the backline at halfway.
The Maple Leafs pulled further ahead shortly after the half when a US miscue on a clearing kick gave Canada a 5-meter scrum. Flanker John Hutchinson burrowed over the line after a couple of power phases from the forwards.
Undaunted, the Eagles struck back immediately behind the individual flair of wing Andre Blom. Normally a fullback, Blom beat his opposite with pace at halfway and then jinked two deep defenders on his way to score.
With a nine-point lead after the Rees penalty, Canada was shaken out of any complacency when center Tomasi Takau carried a defender 5 meters on his way to the line in the 76th minute. The last moments of the game saw the Maple Leafs repeatedly kicking deep to keep the US pinned in its own half.
2-1 Canada moves into second place, one point behind 2-1 Hong Kong. Earlier today, three tries from Ross Thompson lifted 1-2 Japan to a surprise 38-31 win over the Dragons. Just four points--one win--adrift, the 1-2 US squad has all its home games left.
Canada and the US meet again on June 6 in Burlington, Vermont. The US is off next week to make room for the American club championships.
Canada: Tries: Dan Baugh, John Hutchinson
Conv: Gareth Rees (2)
Pens: Gareth Rees
USA: Tries: Andre Blom, Tomasi Takau
Conv: Andre Bachelet
Pens: Chris Morrow
Referee: Paul Haley (Hong Kong)