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The United States ended a seven-game losing streak to Canada with a 38-35 dramatic win at Bonney Field in Sacramento, Calif. The USA held an 11-point lead 36 minutes in, but conceded an eight-minute, 28-point run to Canada on both sides of halftime. The Eagles then answered back with a 20-point of their own run to win the game.
Several Sacramento-based Eagles were huge in the effort, none bigger than Blaine Scully, who scored two tries and came up with a huge play to keep Canada off the board at the death. Fellow Northern California natives Lou Stanfill and Eric Fry delivered impact performances off the bench, and Chris Wyles played through a knee injury to help lift the USA to victory.
The Eagles went on the front foot from the first kickoff, and somewhat surprisingly, from the first scrum that came just seconds later. The first pack down collapsed twice, and it was Canada called for a penalty, instead of the much maligned USA scrum. Wyles gave the Eagles territory with his boot, and after some positive phases and a Canadian penalty in front of the sticks, a 3-0 lead.
Canada was on the wrong side of the whistle in the early goings, and the Maple Leafs took a huge blow when scrumhalf Phil Mack was shown a yellow card in the 10th minute for intentionally slowing the ball down at the ruck following an American break. Wyles converted the penalty into three more points.
The veteran fullback carried the ball in the Canadian end in the midst of a long Eagle possession, but was penalized for making an extra roll in the tackle. Seconds later, Canada’s lineout throw was long, and the Eagles again ran into the attacking 22, but Todd Clever was pinged for entering the ruck from the side.
Canada had a promising shot, too, when Harry Jones fly hacked the ball down the field a couple of times following a mishandle between Olive Kilifi and Danny Barrett. Brett Thompson hustled back, though, and pressured Jones, whose final kick went out the back of the try zone.
Canada got the ball back off the 22-meter dropout, however, and after a couple of quick-ball phases Jones beat LaValla around the edge for a try. James Pritchard slotted the conversion to give Canada a 7-6 lead in the 24th minute.
Wyles and wing Blaine Scully connected a minute later to put the Eagles back in front. Todd Clever beat three Canadian defenders to start the movement. Wyles went weak and dished to Scully, who dished back to Wyles, who offloaded from the deck inches short of the line to Scully for the try in the corner. Wyles narrowly missed the touchline conversion, leaving the Eagles up 11-7.
Clever and Nick Wallace made a mistake off the kickoff that could have led to Canada cutting the lead to one. Both unbound from a ruck, they obstructed a couple of Canadians from charging down a Petri box kick and were penalized, but Pritchard missed the shot at goal.
The Eagles went back on the offensive shortly after. Danny Barrett picked and went cleanly off the back of a scrum, dummied Canadian center Conor Braid and gashed the defense for 40 meters before offloading to Mike Petri. He passed to Thretton Palamo, who was brought down, and a swiftly recycled ball went wide to ball Wyles who housed the try. Wyles converted, putting the USA up 18-7.
Canada countered with an Aaron Carpenter try not long after. Some deft kicking from hand saw Samu Manoa have to ground the ball in his own try zone, and Canada scored shortly following the five-meter scrum. Pritchard slotted the conversion, making it 18-14 as halftime approached.
The Maple Leafs would add two more tries in the final three minutes before intermission, again off some fancy footwork. DTH van der Merwe beat the Eagles around the corner, drew Wyles in, and grubbered past the last defender. Pritchard jumped on the ball for the score and converted, putting the visitors up 21-18.
The next try was a result of a controversial no-call. Ciaran Hearn picked up a dropped ball from Hayden Smith and was tackled by Scott LaValla. He rolled through it, got back up and ran untouched the rest of the way. Pritchard converted and Canada led 28-18.
If the 21-point run to end the second half was the dagger stab, Jones’ try in the fourth minute of the second half was the twist of the blade. Like the last try of the second half, a USA forward, this time Barrett, just dropped a ball and Jones picked it up and ran in for a try. Converted, it put Canada up 35-18.
The Eagles, now down three scores, decided to decline shots at goal from two kickable penalties, and instead went for lineouts in an effort to score tries. Both attempts were stymied, though the Eagles got close the second time. That run of play was stopped by another Canadian penalty, which Petri quick-tapped and threw wide. Jebb Sinclair committed a professional foul and was shown a yellow card for slowing the ball down at a ruck. This time Wyles teed up three points to bring the USA back within two converted tries at 35-21.
The USA finally punched in a try in the 60th minute. Another flurry of penalties from Canada after a big break from Clever saw Scully dive in off a point-blank crash ball. Wyles converted, pulling the Eagles within seven at 35-28.
A line break from Seamus Kelly in the 65th minute put the Eagles inside the attacking 22, but the USA was held up in a maul a phase later, ending a threat for a tie. The USA did cut the lead to four with a penalty from a hobbling Wyles in the 68th minute – 35-31.
Seconds after the restart, Petri box kicked, Nathan Hirayama took too long to counter and reserve hooker Tom Coolican charged it down. The Eagles went wide, with Petri threading a needle between two defenders. The ball worked its way to Brett Thompson’s hands, and he hurdled a defender and ran in for the go-ahead try. Wyles converted, putting the USA up 38-35 with just under 10 minutes to play.
The Eagles managed to stave off Canada for the remainder of the initial 80 minutes, but in extra time Canada held a penalty advantage from a kickable position. The Maple Leafs decided to go for the win instead of the tie, and toed through the ball. The Americans displayed huge defense for several phases, but Manoa was called for a late tackle and Canada tapped and went again. The Maple Leafs got the ball on the wing and made one last surge for the line, but Blaine Scully ripped it away to seal the dramatic win.