U.S. rallies in second game to win World Cup rugby qualifying set against Canada

U.S. wins 59-50 on aggregate

Canada was hoping to be one step from qualifying for the 2023 rugby World Cup in France when it came to Starlight Stadium on Oct. 2. Instead, it will be one step from oblivion and trying to stave off elimination.

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Everything old is new again, and that’s unfortunate for Langford-based Canada. For the second successive World Cup qualifying cycle, Canada collapsed in the second game of its opening-round set against the U.S., falling 38-16 Saturday night before 5,000 fans at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colorado. The Eagles won the two-game, total-point set 59-50 on aggregate score.

Canada had carried a 13-point lead into the second match following its opening 34-21 victory last weekend in St. John’s, N.L., but the high hopes from that encouraging start were crushed as the shift from friendly Newfoundland to suburban Denver proved jarring for Canada.

“It was one step too far for us. We failed to execute under pressure,” said Canada head coach Kingsley Jones of Sooke.

“It was certainly not what we wanted. We are disappointed but we’re a young group that will learn from this.”

It was an uncanny and, for Canadian fans, depressing reprise of the previous World qualification cycle’s opening round between Canada and the U.S. for Japan 2019. That set opened with a 28-28 draw at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ont. But the second game was similarly a disaster for Canada as the Americans ran wild in a 52-16 trouncing in San Diego, leaving Canada to qualify for the 2019 World Cup the hard way through a much longer backdoor route. Canada will have to do that again to get to France 2023 to extend its streak of having qualified for all nine previous World Cups.

Canada is 39-24-2 all-time against the U.S., but the Americans have been the dominant team recently in going 12-1-1 in their past 14 games against the Canadians.

“Our set pieces were not functioning tonight and it’s hard to win when that happens,” Jones said about Saturday’s setback.

World No. 21 Canada will continue in the qualifiers on Oct. 2 at Starlight Stadium in Langford in the first game of a two-game, total-point set against No. 28 Chile, with the second game Oct. 9 in Santiago. The loser will be eliminated, with the winner staying alive and advancing to a repechage round. “We have to make sure we win those games against Chile. That becomes our focus now,” said Jones.

The No. 17 U.S. advances to play No. 16 Uruguay at home Oct. 2 and in Montevideo on Oct. 9 with the winner of that set advancing to the 2023 World Cup. The loser between the U.S. and Uruguay will be relegated to the back-door repechage route.


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