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Eagles Recover from Missteps to Retain CANAM Trophy

In the United States National Team's greatest Rivalry, the Eagles surmounted their own ghosts, their own miss steps, and a hungry Canadian National Team to retain the CANAM Trophy.  In 61 Tests, Canada leads the series 30-21-2.  But on Friday night the Eagles inched closer with their 21st victory over Canada.
Photo Credit: Rugby Canada

How it happened, early on following and infringement the Eagles elected to take the points.  Sure footed Fly-Half Will Magie would kick sticks pushing the Eagles up 3-0.  Shortly after following an exchange of possession, the Canadian attack would put down 20 phases in their attack withering the Eagles defense allowing Outside Center Nick Blevins to surge through and score the first try for Les Rouges.  Up 3-7 the Canadians would gain significant territory, but failed to put themselves in position before committing an infringement to turn the ball over.  Off a driving maul, the record setter, Mighty Joe Taufete'e would score his 19th try of his career off the Eagles driving maul.  No. 8 Luke Campbell would answer for Canada to retake the lead 8-12 after '32.

This match would be a tale of who could get out of their own way first, or which team would continue to shoot themselves in the foot.  Sensing the blood in the water, the surging Canada side turned the ball almost immediately to give the US a penalty.  Moving to their set piece the Eagles ended up five meters away.  Following an infringement, the scrum given to the Eagles.  They attacked full on, ruck just on the edge of the try-line Cam Dolan would pick and go for the try.  Will Magie completed the conversion giving the Eagles a three point edge, 15-12 heading into the locker room.

Les Rouges were champing at the bit ready to come back, they knew they had their chances in the first half to put this away but stepped on themselves.  The Eagles it seemed were unready just yet to take the tempo that Canada was going to play with.  But it didn't last, the Eagles turned the ball over and forced a set piece attack.  Throwing the lineout in, Joe Taufete'e moved to the back of the maul that was being directed by left lock Ben Landry.  With a seemingly unstoppable driving maul, Joe Taufete'e scored his 20th try in international competition at '45 into the game.

This is the moment where the Eagles should have played smart rugby, but the errors continued. Theo Sauder would earn a penalty on the restart to give Canada the ball.  Pushing it to the corner, Luke Campbell surged into the try zone for his second of the match to bring Canada back in 20-19.

The US and Canada would exchange penalty goals 1-2 putting Canada up 23-25.  Canada's kicking from range got them a shot to win, but the smart substitution by Gary Gold of his front row and scrum-half provided the Eagles to extra energy to dictate the tempo.  Ruben De Haas zipped passes out from rucks super flat giving his ball carriers the edge against Canada in the last 20 minutes.  But at times in wasn't enough as the Eagles continued to cough up the ball from knock ons, or just pure guile from the Canadians to steal the ball in the midst of a tackle.

Will Magie would get a chance to put the Eagles up following a high tackle, missing just right it gave the Canadians the ball at their 22.  But the Eagles forced a turnover, the ball fed to the Freak: Mike Te'O, making a massive line break the ball was within 5m of the try-line.  The Eagles ran their attack from tramline to tramline, getting over the line but held up.  On the final scrum of the match, the Eagles secured the ball, Ruben De Haas grabbed the ball for a quick carry surging through the try-line and splashed in to cap the match.  Following Tadgh Leader's conversion the United States Defeated Canada 30-25.
Photo Credit: USA Rugby


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It's important to look at this match.  Earlier during the tournament, it was hard to see where the Eagles were.  Following a great run of form the expectations were high as the two time defending champions of the Americas Rugby Championship.

When I've spoken to Gary Gold and Blaine Scully they have been extremely forthright in how we've played.  They've owned the problems.

Unlike the Guinness 6 Nations, the US and Canada don't have full control of their player pool and it is important to maintain good relations with the Clubs in Europe.  Without these good relationships the Eagles would not have benefitted from having a young Loosehead Prop in David Ainu'u shine over the last two weeks.  Would not have had Joe Taufete'e setting the try-scoring record for front rowers.

Where do the Eagles move from here?  They return to their clubs, they play in Major league Rugby and in Europe.  They get better for their clubs and they return fit.  The World Cup is in September, when you have a tremendous run of form it can often hide some of your issues.  Which it did.  In the Eagles fourth Americas Rugby Championship Campaign there have been some awful performances.  Some holes shot into the hull of the ship that will require filling.  How you fill those holes is mostly from coaching.  The player pool is at a high level.  With a player owned culture, the Eagles will continue to progress.

Defensively, the Eagles need to limit their penalties. They need complete their tackles, they need to make their tackles and track their responsibilities in zone.  And this is where Jacque Fourie comes in.  Scott Lawrence was a solid defense coach for the Eagles and has moved on to Atlanta's franchise in Major League Rugby.  It's also important to note that he worked for Oracle full time, a full time defense coach will allow more work to be done.

Need to get stronger in the scrum, that's technical coaching in regards to your binds and footwork.  But it is also a lot of Strength and Conditioning that will give those players the base to work their tools.  Huw Bewan's approach will continue, the Eagles will get stronger and fitter.  They will be prepared.

The final point here, this series, the CANAM.  It's the US oldest Rivalry.  It's important that this fixture remains on the Calendar.  Because, when you're expected to win and win big.  The pride in your opponent will always rise.  The effort will always be high and they will always fight with everything they have.

~Aaron Castro