Rugby Canada's Men's Under-20 Team again came up just short against a well-disciplined and clinical USA U20 team in the second of two Test Matches against their southern neighbours in final preparations ahead of the IRB's 2012 Junior World Rugby Trophy.
Playing in front of a partisan crowd at Bear Mountain Stadium at Rugby Canada's Centre of Excellence in Langford, BC, the young Canadians wasted no time in showing their intent, with number 8 Cameron Stone barrelling over for the game's opening score after just four minutes. Connor McCann made no mistake with the extras.
Not one of the hundreds in attendance at the state-of-the-art facility could have been left in any doubt of the Canadians' intent, a series of bullocking runs and clever passing seeing the home side continually threaten the Americans' line for several minutes. Strong running by Lucas Hammond, starting on the wing as one of just two players to hold onto their places following the May 23rd first run out against the USA, led to a sustained period of pressure, until scrum half Andrew Ferguson darted under for a second score, this one again converted by McCann.
With just 13 minutes on the clock, the young Canadians were beginning to look dominant, but no one was resting on their laurels. Following the restart a fantastic run by Clayton Meers saw to ball fed to Cowichan's Josh Hart, who touched down under the posts for McCann to slot the simplest of conversions for a 21-0 lead after just 14 minutes.
The highly-rated Americans were not rattled, however, showing great resolve to compose themselves and quieten the tempo of the game, before striking back through a try by Pierce Dargan. The score didn't rattle the Canadians, Hart again threatening the whitewash with another scything run. However, it was the young Eagles who went into half-time with the momentum following a score by the dangerous Noah Tarrant, this score like the first converted by Madison Hughes.
Tarrant began the second-half as he ended the first, touching down again, this time unconverted, following a precision cross-field kick to set the scene for a tight and highly-competitive second half of rugby. Fortunes swung back and forth for the next 10 minutes until a Hughes penalty on 51 minutes gave the Junior All Americans the lead for the first time in the match.
The game was now becoming a huge armwrestle, Canada just being held up over the line following a series of hard drives from within 5 metres. The young Canadians were not ready to settle, and after several more attacks, centre Mike Fuilefau barrelled over for his second try in the series, with it retaking the lead at 28-22.
USA's response was swift, with, for the second time in the series, a young Eagle registering a hat-trick try, Tarrant touching down for his third shortly after the hour mark.
The game started to become more and more attritional, both sides desperate to hang on for the win, but that became harder for the Canadians after Fuku Vikalani was yellow carder after 70 minutes. Things went from bad to worse just three minutes later, when a second Canadian ˆ Meers, saw yellow meaning the remainder of the game was a 13 versus 15 contest. Little time was wasted before Dargan got his second for a 34-28 lead with 5 to go.
A tense finale ensued, strong Canadian pressure only repelled by resolute USA defense, until the referee finally blew the whistle following minutes of injury time. It was the second narrow loss for the younf Canadians, but another which would have given Coach Mike Shelley enormous heart ahead of the JWRT next month.
There is one final warm-up match, versus St. Andrew's U20 at Bear Mountain on June 9, before the team head south for the showpiece event of the U20 season.
Tries: Stones, Ferguson, Hart, Fuailefau; Convs: McCann (4)
Tries: Tarrant (3), Dargan (2); Convs: Hughes (3); Pen: Hughes
u20 upcoming schedule
Warm up matches
May 23 vs. USA U20 at Shawnigan School ˆ lost 22-27
May 26 vs. USA U20 at Bear Mountain ˆ lost 34-28
June 9 vs. St. Andrews U20 at Bear Mountain
IRB Junior Rugby World Trophy
June 18 vs. Georgia U20 at Utah
June 22 vs. Japan U20 at Utah
June 26 vs. Zimbabwe U20 at Utah
June 30 Finals at Utah