Selects slip up Canada 'A' in Americas Pacific Challenge rivalry clash

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay - The USA Rugby Selects earned their first victory of the Americas Pacific Challenge, 47-37, over border rival Canada 'A' in a determined performance at Estadio Charrúa Wednesday.

Ray Egan's charges trailed their Canadian developmental counterparts by 10 points heading into the locker rooms at halftime, and scored four of their five tries in the second 40-minute frame. Nineteen-year-old Ben Cima kept a perfect kicking percentage in the win, converting all five tries and slotting four penalty goals for 22 points. The Selects earned a bonus point in the win as they head into the final round of the tournament, with the final match in Uruguay scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 16, against the home nation. The match will be broadcast live on The Rugby Channel.

With an even younger squad than the one that faced Fiji Warriors in a tough defeat over the weekend, Egan's team began Wednesday's match with purpose. If not to stick it to their famed rivals, the Selects wanted to improve their round-one performance. The first half was more red than blue, however, though the U.S. kept several Canadian attacks at bay in the final third.

A third-minute penalty was converted by Canada captain and capped international Gordon McRorie, and the scrum conceded field position in the early going. Captain Mike Te'o and his back-three compatriots did well to turn over possession when Canada neared the try line, and fly half Cima used his boot to full effect to give the Selects breathing space. A long Cima kick to touch for a lineout resulted in a Hanco Germishuys throw and a subsequent run to the try line by the young hooker, and the attack kept up the pressure for scrum half Nick Boyer to give the U.S. a 7-3 lead.

Canada responded within minutes, with a big break from its own half finished off by Doug Fraser with a long run. Te'o was on his heels and made the tackle at the try line, but too late to avoid Canada retaking an 8-7 lead. Cima turned it around in the 17th minute with a penalty goal, and the Selects kept their heads down on defense in the ensuing minutes as Canada entered the attacking third. Matai Leuta nullified McRorie's attempted grubber, but gave possession back to the opposition a minute later when the Selects were given a lineout.

Despite several chances to break out of their own half - Bryce Campbell continued his strong running and Cecil Garber made strides in his first match of the tournament - the Selects were pinned for successive minutes. A 30th-minute penalty by McRorie restored Canada's lead at 11-10 before the floodgates finally opened as Ben Lesage scored a brace of tries in four minutes. Cima had the last say in the half with a penalty he drew by kicking the ball in behind the defense, bringing the halftime score to 23-13.

"We were making too many errors in the first half, both defensively and in our own third of the field," Egan said following the victory. "At half time we just focused on cutting out our errors and getting our connection in defense. We spoke about creating pressure on Canada both in field position and accuracy in attack. I think our players relaxed and started to play our own game and we managed to put some nice scores together."

Egan inserted Pat Blair as the second half began, and the capped Eagle in both 15s and sevens made an immediate impact with a high work-rate around the field. He was too quick to the breakdown in the 43rd minute as Canada neared the try line once again, but the penalty did not turn into points for the Canadians. It did, however, put the Selects in a more defensive position, and eventually scrum time yielded a yellow card to prop Jake Turnbull in the 47th minute.

Playing with 14 men opened space for Canada, and Lucas Rumbal scored from a lineout close to the line less than a minute after Turnbull took a seat in the sin bin. At 30-13, the Selects began to find their place in the match, and Te'o kicked it off with a kick return through the defense past the 22. He drew an offside call and pointed to the sticks for Cima to cut the deficit to 30-15 with nearly 30 minutes to play.

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Ahmad Harajly saved a try as Canada went back on the attack, chasing a kick in-goal and beating three Canadians to the ball, before Ray Barkwill of PRO Rugby's Sacramento Express was shown a yellow card in the 55th minute. Cima played the role of distributor as the Selects moved from one touch line to the other, and did so again during the same attack for Campbell to fend a defender in space. The next phase, Cima offloaded to center Martin Iosefo as he was taken to the ground for the Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games Olympian to score his first try of the competition, bringing the score to 30-23.

One of the early tries of the tournament was scored by the U.S. captain in the 61st minute following a well-worked attack between he, Blair, Boyer, and the powerful Joe Taufete'e, who had just come onto the pitch. The backs and Blair kept the ball moving as they moved down the field and the front rower broke out of a tackle in stride to give Te'o the space he needed. Cima had no trouble with the conversion from the touch line to level the match at 30-30.

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Barkwill's time in the sin bin came to an end following the try, but the U.S. was still in the ascendancy, and the confidence displayed by Cima to kick into the corner of the try zone from 15 meters was rewarded by the hard chase from Harajly to beat his opposite number to the ball. The video analysis confirmed Harajly had just gotten his hands to the ball before the Canadian rolled over it, giving the Selects their first lead, 37-30, since the beginnings of the match.

Campbell combined with his center partner in the 67th minute for Iosefo's second try of the match and a 44-30 lead, and the Selects held their composure in the remaining minutes - conceding a final try to Lucas Albornoz in the 78th minute - to come away with the 47-37 victory.

Squad turnover and a short recovery period between Saturday and Wednesday aside, the Selects were in a rivalry battle from the opening whistle and answered the challenge. The U.S. now has five points in Pool A of the Americas Pacific Challenge, with Samoa tied but holding a superior point differential. Egan's team will finish the developmental competition Sunday, Oct. 16, against Uruguay 'A' at Estadio Charrúa. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. ET on The Rugby Channel.

USA Rugby Selects | v. Canada 'A'
1. Jake Turnbull (Taufete'e @ 55' (Wenglewski @ 76'))
2. Hanco Germishuys
3. Demecus Beach (Maughan @ 50')
4. Christian Ostberg
5. Harry Higgins (Mahoni @ 65')
6. Malon Al-Jiboori
7. Cecil Garber
8. Sione Tu'ihalamaka (Blair @ 40')
9. Nicklas Boyer (Tomasin @ 68')
10. Benjamin Cima
11. Mataiyasi Leuta (Thompson @ 50')
12. Bryce Campbell
13. Martin Iosefo (Eloff @ 76')
14. Ahmad Harajly
15. Mike Te'o (C)

USA Rugby Selects | Reserves
16. Joseph Taufete'e
17. Chance Wenglewski
18. Alex Maughan
19. Siaosi Mahoni
20. Pat Blair
21. Stephen Tomasin
22. Jean-Pierre Eloff
23. Brett Thompson

Canada 'A' | v. USA
1. Rob Brouwer
2. Ray Barkwill
3. Ryan Kotlewski
4. Lucas Albornoz
5. Conor Keys
6. Lucas Rumball
7. Matt Heaton
8. Admir Cejvanovic
9. Gordon McRorie (C)
10. Robbie Povey
11. Anton Ngongo
12. Doug Fraser
13. Ben Lesage
14. Kainoa Lloyd
15. Rory McDonell

Canada 'A' | Reserves
16. Martial Lagain
17. Peter Houlihan
18. Ryan Ackerman
19. Adrian Wadden
20. Sheppard
21. Andrew Ferguson
22. Patrick Parfrey
23. Guiseppe du Toit

USA Rugby Selects | 47
Tries: Boyer, Iosefo (2), Te'o, Harajly
Conversions: Cima (5)
Penalties: Cima (4)
Discipline: Turnbull (Yellow)

Canada 'A' | 37
Tries: Fraser, Lesage (2), Rumball, Albornoz
Conversions: McRorie (2), Ferguson
Penalties: McRorie (2)
Discipline: Barkwill (Yellow), Heaton (Yellow)

Americas Pacific Challenge | Tournament Schedule

RoundDateTeamTeamTime (ET)
1 Oct. 8 Argentina XV 56-29 Canada A 11 a.m.
USA Rugby Selects
12-62 Fiji Warriors 1:15 p.m.
Samoa A 44-42 Uruguay A 3:30 p.m.
2 Oct. 12 Samoa A 26-39 Fiji Warriors 11 a.m.
USA Rugby Selects
47-37 Canada A 1:15 p.m.
Argentina XV 71-7 Uruguay A 3:30 p.m.
3 Oct. 16 Samoa A v Canada A 11 a.m.
USA Rugby Selects
v Uruguay A 1:15 p.m.
Argentina XV v Fiji Warriors 3:30 p.m.