by Robert Murray
October 22, 2013 (ISN) – Rugby’s popularity and rise in the Americas has been well documented throughout the past few decades. While all the talk off the field has bolstered the game’s popularity across the region, the on field component has long searched for a tournament to properly showcase how far the sport has truly come in the Americas.
For the second straight year, the Americas Rugby Championship made Rugby Canada’s Center of Excellence its home for nine days in October.
Now in it’s fourth year, the Americas Rugby Championship failed to disappoint, drawing big crowds to Westhills Stadium in Langford, B.C for the 2013 edition of the tournament.
While Rugby Canada’s premier facility was on full display, so were the athletes and the nations they represented.
Representing Argentina, Uruguay, the United States and Canada, each country called on a mix of reliable veterans and fresh faces in order to lead them to championship glory.
For Argentina, the nation was solely focused on reclaiming the title for a fourth straight year. Yet to lose a single match or relinquish control of the championship, Argentina had the target on its back as the team to beat.
For Canada, the United States and Uruguay, all were clearly focused on unseating Argentina as champion.
Day one of the tournament brought a sense of déjà vu. Much like 2012, Canada and Argentina began the tournament with wins while Uruguay and the United States ended the day with a loss apiece.
What the first day of the tournament taught the teams is that unlike previous tournament, the 2013 Americas Rugby Championship would be no cake walk if any team wanted to lay claim to the title.
While Argentina walked off the field with a 9-27 victory over the United States, much was made of how the Americans came out in the second half, forcing the Jaguars to play some defensively sound rugby.
Adam Siddall punished Argentina with his foot, knocking down three penalty goals in the game to account for all of his team’s offence and establish himself as a dangerous presence from any range.
In the second match of the night, a 17-10 victory by Canada ‘A’ over Uruguay, Canada needed a late game try by inside-center Mike Scholz and the consistency of fullback Adam McQueen’s foot to capture victory.
Competing for the second time ever in the tournament, Uruguay came prepared to show the rest of the competition that they were not ready to continue playing second fiddle to their Argentinean rivals.
Day two set the stage for two continental battles. With Argentina continuing their dominance over Uruguay, the first major shock of the tournament came in the second game of the night however as the United States XV Selects upended Canada ‘A’ by a score of 30-10
With the title locked up coming into the final day of play, the United States clashed in a back and forth affair that provided an appetizing preview of what was to come in April’s World Cup Qualifiers between the two nations.
Likewise, already out of contention for the championship, Canada gave Argentina all they could handle in one of the closest battles of the entire tournament.
Although, Argentina walked away with the 23-14 victory by the final whistle, Canada’s roster, chalk full of youthful players looking to impress the national team coaching staff, held their own.
Argentina didn’t simply walk away with the title.
An up-and-coming Uruguayan side that will feature some of the same faces in the World Cup Qualifiers in April of 2014 challenged them for eighty minutes.
A group of Canadians, representing all four teams from the Canadian Rugby Championship and provinces from coast-to-coast came together to play on the same level as their Argentinean rival aside from a ten minute period when Canada was down to fourteen men.
A perfect mixture of veterans and rookies combined to lead the United States to their best ever finish at the tournament and put the Argentinean side on the defensive for much of the second half.
At the end of the tournament, it was clear that these four nations could compete on the same level with each other and bring out the best rugby in the opponents on the offensive or defensive sides of the ball.
The tournament showed that rugby in the Americas isn’t just a sideshow but rather, a main show and that the rest of the rugby world should take notice.
It wasn’t just Argentina that won. It was rugby in the Americas that won.