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The USA Eagles squeaked out a 15-13 victory over North American rival Canada in the final match of the Pacific Nations Cup.
AJ MacGinty was the hero for the Eagles, kicking the winning drop goal in the final minute following a Canadian try with just 10 minutes to play. He had all of the USA points in this one, including four penalty goals in the first half. Both teams were seeing yellow throughout this one, as the USA received three yellow cards, while Canada received one.
Canada held the early advantage in this one, and took the lead with a penalty goal from Liam Underwood in the fourth minute. From there, the USA put on some pressure in the Canadian end, but couldn’t get to the try line. Most of the half was very back-and-forth between the two sides. Neither team was very disciplined, as penalties and mistakes went to both teams.
The USA managed to tie it up in the 11th minute with a kick from MacGinty, after the USA came within a few meters of the try line before Canada was penalized for not releasing a tackle. The Eagles managed to get deep in the Canadian 22 a few times, to no avail.
Another MacGinty kick put the Eagles up by three points midway through the first half. The match turned into a scrappy war of attrition, as neither side could gain an edge. Mistakes and slip-ups continued to plague both teams. Canada had a huge opportunity to take over the match, as Greg Peterson was sent off with a yellow card for punching a Canadian player in the ruck. However, the Eagles were the only ones to score during the man advantage, as MacGinty put another penalty goal through to take a 9-3 lead.
With only a few minutes remaining in the advantage, Canada’s John Moonlight was sent off with a yellow card for too many repeated penalties. MacGinty would add his fourth goal in the half to give the USA a strong 12-3 advantage. The Eagles couldn’t score again with the man advantage, despite a few nice phases deep in the Canadian end. The score remained at 12-3 at the halftime whistle.
Canada came out strong in the second half, kicking an early penalty goal to cut the USA lead to 12-6. Soon after, Danny Barrett was sent off with a yellow card for an unnecessary hit away from the play. However, Canada couldn’t take advantage as they couldn’t score with the extra man.
The half went back-and-forth just like the first 40 minutes, until the USA conceded another man-advantage. AJ MacGinty was sent off for a hit on a Canadian player retrieving a kick in the air. This time, the Canadians capitalized. With the clock winding down on the advantage, Nick Blevins tore down the sideline, stiff-arming an Eagles player, and breaking over the try line. An Underwood conversion put Canada up 13-12 in the final ten minutes.
From then on, the USA desperately pushed to find points in the final moments. It looked like they would come up just short, until MacGinty atoned for his yellow card by knocking through a drop goal with just seconds remaining in the match to steal a victory for the United States.
The win propels the USA tp a fifth-place finish with a 2-2 record in the Pacific Nations Cup, and puts winless Canada in last-place sixth. These two rivals will face off again on August 22nd in Ottawa.