CANADA 23 USA 3
It may have been a devastating day for Canadian soccer in Honduras, but a far better one for rugby before a boisterous crowd of 2,273 Tuesday at Westhills Stadium in Langford.
Canada (2-0) defeated the United States (0-2) by a 23-3 count in the second round of the Americas Rugby Championship to set up Saturday night's championship game at 7: 30 p.m. against world rugby power Argentina.
"The fans were huge for us and really behind the team. That elevates you as a player," said the fine Canadian captain Tyler Ardron.
The Argentines (2-0) overcome a surprisingly stubborn Uruguay (0-2) squad 21-10 in Tuesday's other game in the tournament featuring the national 'B' teams of the four nations.
While the Canadian men's soccer team was soundly beaten 8-1 in their World Cup qualifier in Honduras, Canada's rugby side held a clear territorial advantage over the Americans but could not finish effectively, or the score would have been greater.
"We made it hard on ourselves with too many handling errors," said Canadian coach Kieran Crowley. "We didn't look after the ball.
That said, we won by 20."
Connor Braid of James Bay Athletic Association and Zachary Pangelinan of the U.S. traded penalty goals to start the game.
Braid, a graduate of Oak Bay High, then missed a penalty goal before hitting one to put Canada ahead 6-3.
A penalty try, converted by Braid, put Canada ahead 13-3 just before the half.
"We had tons of possession but got some white-line fever in some cases [jitters near the goal line]," said Braid. "But we put ourselves in the right positions, even if some of our final passes went [awry]."
Two missed penalty goals by Pangelinan a native of Guam who lives in San Diego, closed out the first half. Braid missed one of his own penalties in the second half but Canada kept pushing and it paid off with an unconverted try by Jordan Wilson-Ross in the far corner to make it 18-3.
Clayton Meeres, off two passes, barged across the line for another unconverted try to push Canada's lead to 23-3.
Braid said the Island fans lifted the Canadians.
"The crowd was unreal, chanting and stomping in support of us," he said.
The testy second half saw yellow cards assessed against both Canada and the U.S.
Meanwhile, world No. 21 Uruguay held its own in the early game, limiting highly-favoured Argentina to a modest victory and earning a standing ovation from the crowd at full time.
Matias Massera scored the lone try of the opening half for Argentina. Facundo Barrea's converted try in the second half made it 21-3 and pretty much put it away for Argentina. Oscar Duran scored Uruguay's lone converted try, earning an appreciative roar from the Island fans who had adopted the underdogs.
Argentina head coach Daniel Hourcade was not pleased with his side's effort.
"We did not play well. We had many imprecisions. We never played our system. We could not have been worse."
As self-critical of their performance as the Argentines were, Canadian coach Crowley knows this is too good a rugby nation not to come out firing Saturday with the title on the line.
Argentina rested many of its starters Tuesday - the ones being groomed as potential future Pumas.
That's the nickname given Argentina's national side, which is good enough to be playing the New Zealand All Blacks, Australia Wallabies and South Africa Springboks on a regular basis.
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