Bonus-point defeat of Canada sends Eagles top of ARC

ROUND ROCK, Texas - Todd Clever scored a hat trick of tries as the Men's Eagles captain in Saturday's Americas Rugby Championship match against Canada, a 30-22 victory for the home team in front of 7,415 fans at Dell Diamond.

Chad London scored his first international try in the first half before Clever dotted down thrice in a span of 10 minutes in the second frame. Fifteen Eagles earned their debut international caps for the U.S. as Head Coach John Mitchell emptied the bench in the rivalry affair. Tied on points atop the competition table thanks to the bonus-point win, the Eagles continue their ARC campaign Saturday, Feb. 20, against Chile in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Canada jumped on the front foot in the early goings of the match, taking advantage of sloppy errors by the Eagles. In an almost-opposite turn of events from last weekend's match against Argentina XV - in which the Eagles utilized penalty goals to take the lead - it was the visitors who ticked the scoreboard first.

The red-wearing opponent overturned a midfield scrum in the ninth minute and drew a penalty in the set piece, and scrum half Gordon McRorie placed the tee in front of the posts to set up a 3-0 lead. Not three minutes later, a penalty against Ben Landry allowed McRorie to double the lead at 6-0.

"We didn't really get going in that first half," Mitchell said following the U.S.'s fourth defeat on the trot against the border rival, and his first at the helm of the Eagles. "There were a lot of cumulative errors so we couldn't build any pressure."

Luke Hume and Kingsley McGowan, in his second consecutive start wearing the No. 11 jersey, patrolled the wings with pace on both attack and defense, causing havoc on restarts and chasing kicks either way. The threat they posed to the Canadian defense freed a bit of space for Lemoto Filikitonga and Chad London in the centers, and the midfielders brought the U.S. into attacking territory for the first time in the match in the 18th minute.

Canada was whistled for an infringement after London was tackled at the 10, and the Eagles opted for a lineout rather than a three-point attempt from a severe angle. The 10-meter set piece came out to Hume, who fended one tackler as he took on an additional two on his way towards the posts. He drew a penalty and fly half James Bird scored his first international points with the penalty goal to bring the score to 6-3.

Full back Jake Anderson sent a clearance kick into touch at his own 22 on the restart, and McRorie punished another Eagles infraction to extend Canada's lead to 9-3. The Eagles began to win turnover ball after the Canadians' third penalty goal, and a venture into the attacking half bore fruit. Quick passing through the backs sent the Eagles towards the try line, where the forwards put in work with crash balls towards the left-hand touch line. After successive crashes were stopped by the red wall, scrum half Mike Te'o quickly sent the ball to the backs, and Filikitonga flicked an offload to London for the match's opening try. Bird gave the Eagles their first lead of the match with the conversion at 10-9.

McRorie found a gap after a few phases once play resumed, and kicked his fourth penalty goal of the half to reestablish his side's lead at 12-10. An attempted drop goal from Bird in the 33rd minute was blocked deep in Canada's half, and the Eagles lost Filikitonga to an achilles injury a minute later. A Hume break out of the U.S. half was cut out by Canada, and a knock in the final minute of the half ended any chance the team had at retaking a lead before the break.

"There were a couple moments in the first half when we did build pressure, and demonstrated that we could get the ball to space," Mitchell said.

JP Eloff replaced Bird at the onset of the second half and made the most out of one of his first touches with a juke, but more Eagles errors allowed McRorie to extend Canada's lead to 15-10 in the 46th minute. Chris Baumann mowed over a few defenders at midfield following a lineout win a minute later, but a knock near the wing turned over possession in the attacking half.

McGowan did well to dispel any threat from a high ball in the 50th minute, running at the defenders before the Eagles moved the ball through hands to Hume. Despite Hume's well-placed grubber down the touch line, the referee called play back for a forward pass. Hume partnered Anderson in a 55th-minute break, drawing a penalty near Canada's 22.

Eloff set up a 10-meter lineout, from which the U.S. pack drove forward via a maul. Clever held on to the ball and the jersey of his teammate before dotting the ball down over the line in the 56th minute. Anderson was not able to convert the try to keep the score level at 15-15, but the Eagles found themselves in familiar territory after Hume ran nearly 80 meters on the ensuing restart.

The wing avoided several tackles from the touch line to the middle of the field, and was finally taken down at Canada's 10. Canada was called for an infraction not long after, from which Alistair Clark was sent to the sin bin for a yellow card, and another lineout-turned-maul resulted in Clever putting the ball to grass beyond the end line for a 20-15 lead.

Mike Garrity, who replaced Filikitonga in the first half, received the ball without much space on the wing in the 64th minute, and instinctively grubbered the ball through the defensive line, where he was tackled without the ball. Eloff kicked to touch again, and Clever detached from the maul on the short side to dive over for his third try in 10 minutes. Niku Kruger, who had come on in the 60th minute, converted the try for a 27-15 lead.

Canada struck back in the 69th minute as the sinning to Clark ended, with substitute Duncan Maguire slipping away from two tackles to score in the corner. Andrew Ferguson converted the rival's only try of the match for a 27-22 score line, and a penalty goal from Kruger in the 76th minute sealed the eight-point, bonus-point, 30-22, victory for the Eagles.

Clever scored one of the Eagles' four tries against Argentina XV last weekend, and is the U.S.'s leading try-scorer after two matches in the ARC. Following Argentina's defeat of Chile in South America earlier in the day, the U.S. is level on 10 points with the Argentinians, in second only on point differential.

"Our style of football leads us to opportunities, so, at the end of the day, the players are encouraged to, if they have the space, have a crack," Mitchell said. "All we leave to them is the execution. We're always going to present ourselves more opportunities than not, so scoring four tries is available to us on every occasion if we want it.

"We are asking players to go where maybe they've never been before. That's our focus but, in saying that, some players still need the mindset change. They're working hard and not everything's going to stick, but we're still only a two-week-old team."

The Eagles will finish their ARC homestand against Chile Saturday, Feb. 20, at Lockhart Stadium in Florida. Tickets are still available, while the match will be broadcast live on ESPN 3 from 6 p.m. ET.

Men's Eagles | v. Canada

1. Eric Fry

2. Mike Sosene-Feagai

3. Chris Baumann

4. Brodie Orth

5. Ben Landry

6. Nate Brakeley

7. Todd Clever (C)

8. David Tameilau

9. Mike Te'o

10. James Bird

11. Kingsley McGowan

12. Lemoto Filikitonga

13. Chad London

14. Luke Hume

15. Jake Anderson

Men's Eagles | Reserves

16. Joseph Taufete'e

17. Olive Kilifi

18. James Hilterbrand

19. Patrick Blair

20. Alec Gletzer

21. Niku Kruger

22. JP Eloff

23. Mike Garrity

Canada | v. USA

1. Hubert Buydens (C)

2. Ray Barkwill

3. Jake Ilnicki

4. Paul Ciulini

5. Callum Morrison

6. Lucas Rumball

7. Alistair Clark

8. Clay Panga

9. Gordon McRorie

10. Gradyn Bowd

11. Dan Moor

12. Nick Blevins

13. Mozac Samson

14. Phil Mackenzie

15. Pat Parfrey

Canada | Reserves

16. Eric Howard

17. Djustice Sears-Duru

18. Rob Brouwer

19. Kyle Baillie

20. Liam Chisholm

21. Michael Hamson

22. Andrew Ferguson

23. Duncan Maguire

Men's Eagles | 30

Tries: London, Clever (3)

Conversions: Bird, Kruger

Penalties: Bird, Kruger

Canada | 22

Tries: Maguire

Conversions: Ferguson

Penalties: McRorie (5)

Discipline: Clark (Yellow)

Men's Eagles | Americas Rugby Championship 2016

v. Argentina - D 35-35

v. Canada - W 30-22

v. Chile - Saturday, Feb. 20 @ 6:10 p.m. ET - Lockhart Stadium (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)

v. Brazil - Saturday, Feb. 27 @ 3:10 p.m. ET - Arena Barueri (São Paolo, Brazil)

v. Uruguay - Saturday, March 5 @ 4:10 p.m. ET - Charrua Stadium (Montevideo, Uruguay)

**Americas Rugby Championship Standings Breakdown**

Win = 4 points

Loss = 0 points

Draw = 2 points

Bonus Point = 1 for four tries scored / 1 for losing by 7 points or fewer (note: only 1 bonus point can be awarded per team per match)

Pos Team P W D L PF PA TF TA Points
1 Argentina XV 2 1 1 - 87 50 12 4 8
  USA 2 1 1 - 65 57 8 1 8
3 Canada 2 1 - 1 55 47 5 3 5
  Uruguay 2 1 - 1 50 62 8 7 5
5 Chile 2 1 - 1 40 74 3 11 4
6 Brazil 2 - - 1 51 58 5 8 2