Eagles lose to Canada in Pacific Nations Cup opener

EDMONTON, Canada – The USA Rugby Men’s Eagles kept Canada to one try Saturday, but ultimately fell 9-16 in the first match of the IRB Pacific Nations Cup at Ellerslie Rugby Park. Fullback Adam Siddall earned his first cap and kicked three penalty goals in the loss.

With wet conditions on the field, the Eagles suffered a few ball-handling mistakes in the first half and could not keep possession in the opening minutes. In the fifth minute, Canada’s Connor Braid kicked a penalty goal for a 3-0 lead.

Eric Fry put a punishing hit on a Canadian attacker to regain possession for the Eagles, who enjoyed a lengthy spell within 10 meters of the Canada try line. After a few phases, however, Toby L’Estrange’s attempted kick behind the Canada defense was blocked for a knock on and a scrum. The Eagles won the scrum, but committed a knock on of their own, ending the scoring threat.

The Eagles started to find their rhythm and played patiently, waiting for Canada to make a mistake. Braid attempted a drop goal from about midfield with a booming kick, but it fell just under the bar.

Before the halfway mark of the first half, a wayward pass from an Eagles lineout just meters from their own try zone was grabbed by John Moonlight, who only had to take a few steps before diving over the line for the match’s first try. Braid’s conversion extended Canada’s lead to 10-0.

Luke Hume, coming off of a long sevens season, made a nice run through a few defenders before another Eagles knock turned possession over to the northern neighbors. Canada committed a penalty not long into their attack, however, giving Siddall an opportunity to put the Eagles on the board. His long kick missed wide, but the Eagles were getting closer.

Siddall kicked his first penalty goal a few minutes before the end of the half after captain Todd Clever made a strong run into their attacking side of the field. Siddall made Canada pay for their mistake and put the Eagles on the board 10-3.

Canada was strong in the scrum in the first half and was awarded a penalty in the last minute, but the Eagles escaped the half down by a converted try.

The Eagles came out of the break the hungrier team and were awarded a penalty about 35 meters out in the 50th minute. Siddall kicked the ball straight down the middle of the sticks to cut the Eagles’ deficit to 10-6.

With a strong defense and a confident attack building in the second half, it seemed the Eagles were destined to score their first try of the match. They settled for another Siddall penalty goal in the 63rd minute for a 10-9 scoreline.

Liam Murphy replaced John Quill after the penalty, giving Murphy his first Test cap. James Paterson, who scored a try in the last meeting between the two sides in June 2012, used his speed to find space on the wing, but was tackled into touch to end the opportunity.

Braid added two more penalty goals within minutes of each other to extend Canada’s lead to 16-9, and Clever was involved in a scuffle during a Canada maul to add to the Eagles’ frustration as the match started to wind down. Blaine Scully and Seamus Kelly also entered the game for the Eagles, with Kelly earning his first cap.

In the closing minutes, the Eagles started to move the ball within 10 meters of the Canada try line. The Eagles were awarded a penalty five meters out, but opted not to kick for points as only a converted try would do. Canada held strong, however, and relieved pressure with a kick into touch before an Eagles knock forced the referee’s whistle.

"We had hoped to come out faster in the first half. We were flat and didn't see the opportunities which allowed them to get on the front foot. In the second half we were more aggressive and we had the run of play. Unfortunately we we didn't' get through a lot of phases and we didn't get to score tries because of it," said Tolkin.

Though the loss is disappointing, the match was the first in a busy 2013 schedule for the Men’s Eagles. They will get a chance at revenge in August against Canada in a Rugby World Cup Qualifier at Charleston’s Blackbaud Stadium. Up next for the Eagles is Ireland at Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium June 8 before resuming Pacific Nations Cup action against Tonga at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., June 14.

Men’s Eagles | Pacific Nations Cup vs. Canada

1. Shawn Pittman
2. Zach Fenoglio
3. Eric Fry
4. Brian Doyle
5. Louis Stanfill
6. John Quill
7. Peter Dahl
8. Todd Clever
9. Robbie Shaw
10. Toby L’Estrange
11. James Paterson
12. Andrew Suniula
13. Troy Hall
14. Luke Hume
15. Adam Siddall
16. Tom Coolican
17. Phil Thiel
18. Nick Wallace
19. Graham Harriman
20. Liam Murphy
21. Chris Saint
22. Seamus Kelly
23. Blaine Scully

Men’s Eagles | Pacific Nations Cup vs. Canada
Penalties: Siddall (3)