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CANTON, Mass. — Cambridge University provided a stern test for the Collegiate All-Americans in the first two matches of their summer tour. It did not administer the test.
That came from the Ontario Blues – a Canadian outfit starting six players with international experience – who would gauge whether or not the All-Americans were willing to fully compete in their third game in eight days.
It was a compelling examination.
The All-Americans displayed a willingness to challenge the same men’s side that beat NYAC this spring, but conceded 12 unanswered points late and lost a generally unfriendly affair that featured several off-the-ball skirmishes, 31-16.
“Out of any game in the last couple years, that was probably one of our worst games,” Ontario’s Derek Daypuck said. “That compliment can go to them to make us not play the way we’re used to playing. We’re usually a lot tighter and a lot more structured. And a lot more on the front foot. We just had a hard time getting anything going.”
Ontario led 19-16 with roughly six minutes remaining and sealed the win with a converted try from substitute Dave Worsley and an unconverted try from Dan Moor.
“I think it was the middle 20 minutes of the second half that took it out of us,” All-Americans coach Matt Sherman said. “We weren’t able to play in their half. We had to play all the defense near our goal line. I thought we did really well, but it took its toll on us, defending doggedly.”
An impactful wrinkle the All-Americans used on attack was bringing wing Garrett Brewer into the first receiver slot on certain attacking scrums.
“It’s just to give more options to the defense and make them bite down on who they want to take,” Brewer, the St. Mary’s College fly-half, said. “If it’s open, then we go, and then if not, we have options off that.”
Off a scrum inside their own 22 early in the game, the All-Americans made ground after Brewer took the first pass from scrumhalf Niku Kruger and jumpstarted the offense. It led to a Kalei Konrad drop goal after several phases, putting them up 3-0.
Ontario answered with a well-worked try in the corner from wing Jake Webster, and held a 5-3 lead after Derek Daypuck missed the conversion.
Daypuck, who has earned 17 Canadian caps, played inside center against the All-Americans and converted his own try after Moor broke the line and offloaded, putting the Blues up 12-3.
The All-Americans took a 13-12 lead just before halftime with an effective counter attack that Brewer started by fielding a kick in mid-field.
Brewer found Madison Hughes, who dished it to Kingsley McGowan at pace. After juking out of three tackles, McGowan was stopped but managed to offload to Mike Lawrenson, putting the lock away for a 15-meter try.
“Once you get a team dragging across the field, that inside option is always there,” McGowan said. “I just took a hard left step inside. From there, there’s no organization on defense. There was a good front line, but that second line is usually helter skelter.”
Ontario fly-half Shawn Windsor scored a converted try early in the second half, making the score 19-13.
Hughes, who was back at fullback after playing scrumhalf in the second test against Cambridge, slotted a penalty to bring the All-Americans within three points, 19-16.
Sherman described this group - 33 players from 21 schools, with only six having previous All-American experience - as focused and having several players with the potential to advance past the age-grade level.
“In the past, we’ve tended to have one or two (players) we feel really high about,” Sherman said. “In this group, I think there’s a large contingency with legitimate chances to go on. The most important thing for these younger, aspiring players, is because they’ve gotten the All-American jersey, is to not get complacent. We’ve talked about that, not having a finish line. Ever.”
News & Notes:
- Kutztown’s Kruger was given a red card after stomping an Ontario player on the groin.
- The All-Americans left six points on the board early on when Kruger missed consecutive penalty kick attempts. Hughes replaced him as the primary kicker for the rest of the contest.
- McGowan was subbed out for UCLA’s Sam Sirell after suffering a shoulder stinger.
- Old Blue coach Marty Veale was at the match assisting coach Matt Sherman in the absence of assistant coach Gavin Hickie, who traveled to Europe after Wednesday’s match.
- The pitch at the Irish Cultural Center was narrow. In its pre-game warm up, the All-Americans were practicing using dummy runners in their offense, but didn’t often implement those attacking patterns in the game. “We did an OK job, I just don’t think we play that much rugby because of the narrow field and because we were in our own half a lot,” Sherman said.