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The United States opened the Mike Friday era and the Olympic qualification season with a 17-15 defeat of rival Canada. The scintillating game moves the Eagles to an all-important 1-0 in pool play and a result close to the Cup Quarterfinals. The USA secured a first-half lead and held onto it until midway through the second half, and a big play from a debutant paved the way for a game-winning try with time elapsed.
The Eagles started off with very little possession. Canada worked the ball sideline to sideline and went through the phases for most of the first half, but the American defense stayed organized and prevented a score, partially thanks to some Canadian passes hitting the sod.
Highlights during the defensive stand came from the shortest Eagles – Carlin Isles and Madison Hughes. The 21-year-old captain upended Canada’s bruiser, John Moonlight, in one tackle, and Isles had an impressive counter ruck, though the breakdown resulted in a penalty on the USA.
Maka Unufe had the first line break for the Eagles, and if there weren’t tape around his knee, he might have gone to pay dirt. However, Moonlight caught him from behind. Zack Test would break the stalemate after a give-and-go with Danny Barrett. Barrett sucked in the defense and offloaded to Test, who made one step and sprinted in for the opening try. With a conversion, the Eagles led 7-0.
Canada caught a break with a penalty on a restart that allowed the Canucks to crawl back within two before halftime. Moonlight was dropped by his lifters, and a penalty was called on the USA for phantom contact in the air. Canada swung the ball wide and ran it in. The conversion was missed, so the USA led 7-5 at intermission.
The Eagles won the opening kickoff of the second half, and Test scored his 100th career try to extend his USA all-time points record and the USA’s lead to 12-5. The conversion was missed.
Canada then ran in consecutive tries, the first coming after Isles was called for holding on after being tackled deep in his own territory, to take the lead, 15-12. They led until the final hooter, but the Americans weren’t done.
In his Eagle debut, Perry Baker, who subbed on for Isles, took his second touch around the Canadian defense and deep down the touch line before being reined in by the Canadian sweeper. The ball recycled, the Eagles swung it to the opposite side of the field, and Test carried a Canadian defender over the try line for the game winner in extra time.
The win makes Mike Friday 1-0 all time as USA’s head coach. Up next for the Americans is England at 10:51 ET. England was upset by Argentina, 21-19, in the Gold Coast’s first game.
Tries: Test (3)
Tries: Douglas (2), Hammond