With Photos by Erich Eichhorn – ISN
Victoria (ISN) – Rugby Canada’s Men’s U20 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 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 May 23’s first run out against the USA, led to a sustained period of pressure, until number 9 Andrew Ferguson darted under for a second score, this one again converted by McCann.
Lucas Hammond shrugs off one USA defender while dragging two others along for the ride. – Erich Eichhorn image ( www.allsportmedia.ca )
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.
Cameron Stones of Canada leads they way with teamates in tow. – Erich Eichhorn image ( www.allsportmedia.ca )
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.
#12 Clayton Meeres of Canada is double teamed the by the USA players. The USA would have little ball possesion in the first half thanks to the aggressive play of our U20 squad. – Erich Eichhorn image ( www.allsportmedia.ca )
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 USA would trip up Canada’s U20 squad in the second half after a weak start to the game. – Erich Eichhorn image ( www.allsportmedia.ca )
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.
Team USA player Alex Taefu feels the straight arm of Clayton Meeres of Canada as he attempts to bring him down. – Erich Eichhorn image ( www.allsportmedia.ca )
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 – 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.
Clayton Meeres hands off the ball to teammate Mike Fuilefau. Fiulefau would score an important try late in the game to bring the Canadian squad close to victory. – Erich Eichhorn image ( www.allsportmedia.ca )
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.