Eagles come up short in second leg of RWC 2015 qualifier

TORONTO, Ontario – The Men’s Eagles had a tough task ahead of them in Toronto and came out strong, but ultimately lost to Canada 11-13 in the second leg of the Rugby World Cup 2015 qualifier Saturday.

After their 9-27 loss to Canada in front of a sold-out crowd at Charleston's Blackbaud Stadium, the Eagles needed a 19-point win in order to qualify for the Rugby World Cup without having to play another series.

The Eagles had strong possession deep in Canadian territory for the first 10 minutes of the match. An apparent try in the seventh minute was held up by the northern rivals.

After regaining possession, Andrew Suniula made a surging run within five meters of the try line and Chris Biller finished it off in the try zone. Unfortunately, the referee deemed the try had been held up yet again, keeping the score at 0-0.

Luke Hume, returning to the team from injury, made a huge run in the 17th minute to get the ball back into the positive end of the field but lost it forward. Not long thereafter, Blaine Scully regained possession for the Eagles and fed Hume. Eventually, the ball came to Takudzwa Ngwenya, who broke a tackle and scored the game’s opening try.

Minutes later, Canada’s James Pritchard kicked a penalty goal from midfield and followed it up with a try of his own. From a lineout near the 22, Canada moved the ball quickly to the opposite side of the field and Ciaran Hearn fed the fullback for the try. Pritchard missed his conversion, but Canada still led at 8-5.

Harry Jones almost extended the lead in the 27th minute with a speedy run through the Eagles. Without support, however, the Eagles forced a knock and regained possession.

With just a minute remaining in the first half, Pritchard missed a penalty kick much closer than his earlier attempt from midfield. At the other end of the field, Chris Wyles successfully kicked his own penalty as time expired to draw level.

The 8-8 halftime score meant the Eagles still needed put at least 19 points on the scoreboard in order to qualify for the Rugby World Cup. It also meant they would have to keep Canada out of the try zone for the remainder of the match.

Canada put together a few positive phases in the 60th minute in the Eagles’ end of the field and were rewarded with a try from Jason Marshall, who sneakily dotted the ball down in the corner in front of the assistant referee. Pritchard missed the conversion, keeping the Eagles within striking distance at 8-13.

The Eagles could not take advantage of a Canadian yellow card, but Wyles drew his side closer with a penalty goal in the 67th minute. Time was not in the Eagles’ favor, but the visitors did not give up on the match.

In the final minute, Wyles lined up for a penalty kick attempt, which would have given the Eagles a very late lead. It missed just wide and the referee signaled full time. Canada qualifies as Americas 1 at the Rugby World Cup 2015 and took home the CanAm Trophy from the day’s match.

The Eagles will face Uruguay in another two-leg series next spring, with the winner advancing to the Rugby World Cup as Americas 2 in Pool B with South Africa, Samoa, Scotland, and the Asia 1 qualifier.

Men’s Eagles | v. Canada
1. Shawn Pittman
2. Chris Biller
3. Eric Fry
4. Louis Stanfill
5. Brian Doyle
6. Scott LaValla
7. Peter Dahl
8. Todd Clever
9. Robbie Shaw
10. Toby L'Estrange
11. Luke Hume
12. Andrew Suniula
13. Chris Wyles
14. Takudzwa Ngwenya
15. Blaine Scully

Men's Eagles | Reserves
16. Zachary Fenoglio
17. Titi Lamositele
18. Phil Thiel
19. Cameron Dolan
20. Derek Asbun
21. Mike Petri
22. Folau Niua
23. Roland Suniula

Men's Eagles | 11
Tries: Ngwenya
Penalties: Wyles (2)

Canada | 13
Tries: Pritchard, Marshall
Penalties: Pritchard