The USA Eagles opened their 2012 international campaign, and Coach Mike Tolkin’s era at the helm, with a 28-25 loss to Canada in a hot and damp Kingston, Ontario.
It was a match that was riddled with errors on both sides, and at times looked like it could have gone either way. However, poor tackling and handling errors would mark the Eagles demise in an otherwise hard fought encounter.
Canada came out of the gates strong, and used their big runners to attack Will Holder who made his debut at flyhalf for the Eagles. Holder would be exposed out of position a few times early in the match, one of which led to a try by Canadian flyhalf Matt Evans.
The USA attack was eager to run as well. Coach Tolkin’s team made good on his promise to play a more open game of rugby, and it paid dividends when Chris Wyles received a nifty pass from Paul Emerick, pinned his man, and put debutant Luke Hume into space for a try in the corner. Holder’s kick from the touchline missed and it was 7-5 Canada.
Tolkin noted his player’s ability to buy into the team’s new pattern of play as a real highlight of the day. “I thought our attacking shape was good, and that guys were comfortable with it.” Said Tolkin. “We had a few moments where we got out of shape, but we stuck with our attacking philosophy and scored a few tries off of it.”
Canada struck right back with a try from Ciaran Hearn, who exposed an overlap in numbers out on the wing. Canada took a 14-5 lead and it began to look as though the USA was in for a long day at the office.
However, the US defense would adjust and begin to put the Canadians under pressure causing many turnovers and eventually earning a penalty for Holder to kick. It was 14-8 following the penalty, and for the next 10 minutes both teams would exchange penalties to make it 17-11 with 15 minutes left in the first period.
The Eagles were put under more pressure by the Canadian attack, but a Todd Clever turnover would spark one of the most exciting phases of the game, a passage that would tell the story of the whole match: plenty of opportunities, but opportunities lost.
Following the turnover, Clever made a break up the middle of the field, shedding of a few would-be tacklers. Brian Doyle (who had a productive match on debut in the second row) took a pass from Clever to gain more Canadian territory before offloading back to Clever who had plenty of space to run. However, Clever had to lay out in order to corral Doyle’s pass, and the momentum was stymied. Like many phases for the Eagles, had the pass been spot on, Clever would have been off to the races.
The Eagles would build on those phases though, and soon found themselves knocking on the Canadian goal line again. James Paterson then inserted himself in the 9-10 channel, and Holder offloaded a sweet little inside pass to Paterson who hit the gap at full pace. The US took their first and only lead of the game following the conversion, 18-17. Before the half though, Prichard would hit another penalty for Canada, taking the lead into halftime 20-18.
The second stanza would be much slower with both teams trying to sort out the issues of the first half, but it was Canada who enjoyed most of the possession for the opening 20 minutes.
The US defense held on while Canada made multiple inroads into the USA red-zone, but managed to escape with only three points. 23-18 was the score, but Holder barely missed a penalty, which could have brought the Eagles within two, and still anyone’s game to play for.
Canada would make the deathblow however when Luke Hume attempted to find touch from deep in his own territory following a missed Canadian penalty.
Hume’s kick wouldn’t find touch however, and the Canadians attached from the missed opportunity. Captain Aaron Carpenter received a pass that caught the US defense napping and dotted down for the try to put Canada on top by 10.
The US wasn’t done attacking however, and some good tactical kicking gave the Eagles a lineout deep in Canadian territory with only five minutes left to play.
The US would build more phases off the lineout and it looked like the Eagles had scored a try in the corner, but Referee Marius Jonker deemed it held up, but brought play back to across the field for a penalty, where the Scott LaValla would eventually power in for a try off the quick tap. Holder’s kick was good, but time expired before the Eagles could mount another attack. Final score: 28-25 to Canada.
Coach Tolkin said post match there were some positives out there, but he expects more precision in the coming weeks. “That’s the type of game we need to win. It wasn’t Canada’s strongest side, and we need to be able to put teams like that away. It’s a starting point though, and gives us some good stuff to work toward.”
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Tries: Hume, Paterson, LaValla
Convs: Holder 2
Pens: Holder 2
Tries: Evans, Hearn, Carpenter
Convs: Pritchard 2
Pens: Pritchard 3
15 Chris Wyles (Saracens)
14 James Paterson (Glendale Raptors)
13 Paul Emerick (London Wasps)
12 Andrew Suniula (Cornish Pirates)
11 Luke Hume (Old Blue)
10 Will Holder (Army)
9 Mike Petri (NYAC)
1 Mike MacDonald (At Large)
2 Chris Biller (Northampton Saints)
3 Eric Fry (Wellington Old Boys RFC, New Zealand)
4 Louis Stanfill (NYAC)
5 Brian Doyle (NYAC)
6 Scott Lavalla (Stade Francais)
7 Andrew Durutalo (USA Rugby Sevens/Old Puget Sound Beach)
8 Todd Clever* (NTT Shining Arcs)
16 Derek Asbun (Oxford University – England)
17 Shawn Pittman (London Welsh)
18 Tom Katzfey (Life University)
19 Taylor Mokate (Wellington Old Boys RFC – New Zealand)
20 Shaun Davies (BYU)
21 Roland Suniula (Chicago Griffins)
22 Colin Hawley (USA Rugby Sevens)
1 Hubert Buydens – Prairie Wolf Pack (Saskatoon, SK)
2 Ryan Hamilton – BC CRC Team (West Vancouver, BC)
3 Andrew Tiedemann – Prairie Wolf Pack (St.Albert, AB)
4 Brett Beukeboom – Ontario Blues (Lindsay, ON)
5 Tyler Hotson – London Scottish RFC (Vancouver, BC)
6 Nanyak Dala - Prairie Wolf Pack (Saskatoon, SK)
7 Chauncey O'Toole – The Rock (Belleisle, NB)
8 Aaron Carpenter (C) - Plymouth Albion (Brantford, ON)
9 Sean White – Unattached (Victoria, BC)
10 Matt Evans - Cornish Pirates (Duncan, BC)
11 Ciaran Hearn - The Rock (Conception Bay South, NL)
12 Mike Scholz - Ontario Blues (Oakville, ON)
13 DTH Van der Merwe - Glasgow Warriors (Victoria, BC)
14 Sean Duke - BC CRC Team (Vancouver, BC)
15 James Pritchard - Bedford Blues (Parkes, Australia, NSW)
Jason Marshall - Stade Aurillacois (North Vancouver, BC)
Tom Dolezels - Ontario Blues (London, ON)
Jebb Sinclair - London Irish /DHL Stormers (Charters Settlement, NB)
Tyler Ardron - Ontario Blues (Lakefield ON)
Kyle Armstrong - Ontario Blues (Whitby, ON)
Phil Mackenzie - London Welsh RFC (Oakville, Ontario)
Jeff Hassler - Prairie Wolf Pack (Okotoks, AB)
Referee: Marius Jonker
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