VANCOUVER — Playing better still wasn’t good enough for Canada’s senior men’s rugby team as they saw an early 12-point lead slowly whittled away in a 20-15 loss to the United States Saturday night in the final match for both teams prior to the Rugby World Cup.
The Canadians dominated the game early but then gave up 10 straight points in the second half as the U.S. extended its unbeaten streak against Canada to six years.
“You don’t go into the change room and kick the boys when they are down when they’ve given everything, but by the same token it’s obviously not acceptable to lose,” said head coach Kingsley Jones.
Canada had a chance to win the match in the game’s dying seconds but failed to push the ball into the U.S. end zone. Canada, ranked 21st in the world, managed two goal-line stands against the No. 13 Americans.
“The team has come a long way,” said Jones. “I’m really pleased with a lot of what we did if we look at the positives. We looked good with our strategy.”
The Canadians took some solace in that the margin of defeat was much smaller than the 47-19 pasting they took the last time the teams met on July 27 in the World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup in Glendale, Colo.
“There’s no doubt we are better,” said captain Tyler Ardron. “We can see the way we defend. To hold them to as many points as they ended up with tonight was a big step. That’s huge for us.
“We’re just not quite happy with the points we are scoring. If we can (score) a couple more, we will put a lot of teams away.”
Winger Martin Iosefo scored the deciding points for the U.S. when he bowled over Canada’s Shane O’Leary for a try in the 71st minute. The conversion attempt by Will Hooley was wide.
American coach Gary Gold said his team was on its heels early.
“Canada came out and really did a good job,” said Gold. “In the first half they dominated us.
“We were below our best today. I’m disappointed about that but really encouraged by the courage to come back and show the fight when we were 12-0 down.”
Canada’s last victory over the U.S. was in August 2013 when it won a two-game qualifying series for the 2015 Rugby World Cup. In the 13 games since Canada has a record of 0-12-1. Dating back to 1977 Canada is 38-23-2 in official matches against the Americans.
The game, played before a small but loud crowd at BC Place Stadium, was the final tune-up before Canada leaves for the Rugby World Cup in Japan. The tournament begins Sept. 20 but Canada’s first game is Sept. 26 against Italy.
Canada fielded a team similar to the one that will open the World Cup while the U.S. side was mostly reserves.
Scoring tries for Canada was scrum half Gordon McRorie and outside half Peter Nelson.
Nelson also had a penalty kick and a conversion.
Scoring tries for the U.S. was No. 8 Cam Dolan and hooker Dylan Fawsitt.
Outside half Will Magie had a penalty kick and a conversion.
The game took a toll on the Canadian roster. Lock Kyle Baillie limped to the dressing room late in the first half with a heavily taped right knee. Flanker Justin Blanchet also left the game but returned to the bench.
Jones didn’t know the extent of the injuries.
Ardron said the Canadians will use the next few weeks fine-tuning for the World Cup.
“We want to go put our stamp on this World Cup,” he said. “We have a lot of heart. The skills are really starting to develop every week.”
NOTES: Canada will play four games in 17 days at the World Cup. … After facing Italy the Canadians play New Zealand Oct. 2, South Africa Oct. 8 and Namibia Oct. 12. … American captain Blaine Scully earned his 50th cap. … Fullback Patrick Parfrey launched a kick in the first half that hit the huge TV screen overhanging the field.
Jim Morris, The Canadian Press