Thompson scores debut try to give Eagles first defeat of Canada since 2009

Thompson scores debut try to give Eagles first defeat of Canada since 2009

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Men’s Eagles put an end to a winless streak against Canada with a thrilling, 38-35 victory in front of a sold-out crowd at Bonney Field Saturday.

The afternoon kickoff forced the referee to stop play during each half for water breaks, but both teams ensured the fans would get a full match of rugby and then some.

The Eagles dominated possession in the first 10 minutes of the match and turned it into points when Canada was penalized for offside in the fourth minute. Chris Wyles, who accounted for nine points in the Eagles’ loss to Japan last weekend in Carson, kicked the penalty goal.

Phil Mack was shown a yellow card in the 10th minute to knock Canada down to 14 players and Wyles’ left boot struck again to extend the Eagles’ lead to 6-0.

Brett Thompson, making his test debut for the Eagles after spending a couple of seasons with the Men’s Eagles Sevens program, got his first taste of the game in the 19th minute with a pass from Wyles.

Mack returned to the pitch in the 20th minute and made an impact to set up a teammate down the touch line for a big gain. Thompson beat three Canadians to the in-goal to see the ball out before the opponents could get to it.

Canada’s sustained pressure over the course of a few minutes resulted in its first try. Mack took the ball from the ruck about 10 meters from the Eagles’ try line and sent a quick pass to the wing for Harry Jones, who dotted down for five points. James Pritchard kicked the conversion to undo the early work by the Eagles and put Canada ahead, 7-6.

Todd Clever broke through multiple tackles in the 26th minute to set up the Eagles’ attack on Canada’s side of the pitch. A few phases later, Shalom Suniula sent a wide pass to Wyles for a break before a pass to Blaine Scully. As the winger’s hometown crowd cheered, Scully passed the ball back to Wyles, who managed to get within a meter of the try line before being tackled. With his head up, Wyles found an onrushing Scully, who dove over to give the Eagles an 11-7 lead.

Pritchard missed his only penalty kick attempt of the match in the 30th minute after an offside call against the Eagles. Danny Barrett found space between a few Canadians after the Eagles won a scrum in their own half and could only be stopped at Canada’s 22. The attack continued and finished with Wyles in the corner of the try zone. He converted his own try to extend the lead to 18-7, the largest Eagles’ lead since the victory against Uruguay in March.

With five minutes remaining in the first half, the Eagles were playing strongly and smart, which countered Canada’s ill-disciplined play throughout the opening 40 minutes. Aaron Carpenter put a dent into the Eagles’ lead, however, after a few crash-ball phases on the home team’s doorstep. Pritchard converted to bring Canada closer at 18-14.

Canada overtook the Eagles after a nifty chip kick behind the defense was latched onto by Pritchard in the try zone. His conversion put Canada ahead by three at 21-18.

The Eagles won the ensuing restart and looked to hold possession until the first-half whistle, but the referee offered little respite and Ciaran Hearn ran 60 meters for Canada’s fourth try of the half. Pritchard’s conversion sent the rivals into the locker rooms with Canada in the lead, 28-18.

“We were disappointed in ourselves,” Head Coach Mike Tolkin said of the atmosphere in the locker room at halftime. “We let them back into the game.”

The second half did not start much better for the Eagles. Barrett dropped a pass inside Canada’s 22 in the 42nd minute, giving Jones a free pick-up and lane to the try zone. Pritchard converted Canada’s fifth try for a 35-18 lead.

The local crowd grew restless as they witnessed the bitter rival overturn an 11-point deficit in a matter of game-time minutes. The Eagles, however, continued the trend of refusing to give up in a match.

In the 45th minute, Canada took another penalty and the Eagles decided three points was not enough to get back into the match. Wyles kicked to touch, but Canada managed to regain possession and turn play the other way before a penalty for obstruction was called.

Jebb Sinclair, whose ban for receiving a red card against Scotland last weekend was rescinded during the week, was shown a yellow card in the 52nd minute to give the Eagles another man-advantage.

Wyles kicked the three points to bring the Eagles within two converted tries at 35-21 and the Eagles kept up the momentum with big runs from Clever and Mike Petri. The Eagles spent nearly two minutes trying to get over the try line and tired the Canadian defense enough to find space on the wing. In the 59th minute, Petri’s quick pass to Scully gave the Sacramento native his second try of the match. Wyles’ conversion made the score 35-28.

Wyles kicked another penalty in the 67th minute to cut the deficit to four points. On the restart, Tom Coolican chased down and blocked a clearance kick deep in Canada’s half. He chased after the ball and was supported by Barrett and the rest of the energized Eagles, who played a few smart passes to the wing to give Thompson a debut try. Wyles’ conversion put the Eagles ahead, 38-35, with 10 minutes remaining in the match.

The Eagles either kept possession or kept Canada within its own half for the majority of the final 10 minutes, but Nathan Hirayama’s run past the Eagles’ 22 gave Canada a lifeline. Petri dragged the sevens star down to keep Canada out of the try zone, but the field position was a boost to the Canadian attack.

Scott LaValla was sent to the sin bin with almost no time remaining and Canada was in perfect position to notch the scoreline with a three-point penalty kick, but the rival went for the win. The Eagles stood firm, however, and even kept ahold of the lead when Canada was given a second opportunity to go for points. Canada declined the option, opting to either win or lose the match than reward the fans watching around the world with a draw.

The Eagles stopped Canada at each attack and were elated when the referee blew the full-time whistle, signaling the end of the team’s two-match losing streak and seven-match losing streak to a bitter rival.

Neither Canada nor the Eagles were in contention to win the IRB Pacific Nations Cup Pacific/Asia conference, but the Eagles take second place with the win. Tolkin and his staff will now look forward to the Americas Rugby Championship in the fall and the historic matchup with the New Zealand All Blacks at Soldier Field in Chicago Nov. 1.

Men's Eagles | v Canada
1. Nick Wallace
2. Phil Thiel
3. Olive Kilifi
4. Samu Manoa
5. Hayden Smith
6. Todd Clever (C)
7. Scott LaValla
8. Danny Barrett
9. Mike Petri
10. Shalom Suniula
11. Brett Thompson
12. Thretton Palamo
13. Seamus Kelly
14. Blaine Scully
15. Chris Wyles

Men's Eagles | Reserves
16. Tom Coolican
17. Eric Fry
18. Titi Lamositele
19. Louis Stanfill
20. Kyle Sumsion
21. Folau Niua
22. Chad London
23. Luke Hume

Canada | Starting XV
1. Andrew Tiedemann
2. Aaron Carpenter
3. Jake Ilnicki
4. Jamie Cudmore
5. Tyler Hotson
6. Jebb Sinclair
7. John Moonlight
8. Tyler Ardron
9. Phil Mack
10. Harry Jones
11. DTH Van der Merwe
12. Connor Braid
13. Ciaran Hearn
14. Jeff Hassler
15. James Pritchard

Canada | Reserves
16. Hubert Buydens
17. Ray Barkwill
18. Jason Marshall
19. Jon Phelan
20. Kyle Gilmour
21. Gordon McRorie
22. Nathan Hirayama
23. Nick Blevins

Men's Eagles | 38
Tries: Scully (2), Wyles, Thompson
Conversions: (3)
Penalties: Wyles (4)

Canada | 35
Tries: Jones (2), Carpenter, Pritchard, Hearn
Conversions: Pritchard (5)

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Comments (24)

  • Guest (Tolkin Is Genius!)

    Amazing coaching strategy from Mr. Tolkin. He was always playing the long game all along. His rope-a-dope tactics are awesome. The Eagles APPEAR to be crap for 3 years and then Tolkin tells the boys to try now and the wins are going to come flooding in. Are the All Blacks nervous? YOU BET THEY ARE! We're on our way to TIER 1 BABY! World rugby look out as Mike "Boy Genius" Tolkin has just launched "Stage 2" of his 4 year plan to take over world rugby.

  • Guest (Bob)

    In reply to: Guest (Tolkin Is Genius!)

    This is amusing if your joking, if this is a serious comment I am stunned. USA has zero chance at even competing with the All Blacks & Tolkin is a fraud.

  • Guest (Scrum-tious)

    In reply to: Guest (Tolkin Is Genius!)

    Are you on crack?

  • Guest (rugger2)

    Not sure where to begin...this may well be the most maddening match I've ever seen. The reality is Canada had no business being in the match. They were short a player early, one of their better players left for injury fairly early on, and they were poorly disciplined. Despite this, we managed to only be up 11 before Canada made us look like the immature side we are. We did well in the scrum, and frankly were unlucky to have not gotten a couple of tighthead penalties...but our lineouts were suddenly a huge problem. A couple (more) mistakes and suddenly we went into halftime down, and came out looking like we had our heads down. Fortunately, Canada remained unpolished, and we fought our way back into it. We looked dangerous at times in the backline, and looked solid in defense in the last 25 minutes. But why can we not do this for a full match? It used to be that we were always hanging in there until the last 20 minutes, when we would get trounced by fitter players. Now, we are clearly on par in fitness, but the mental focus is clearly fleeting on and off. Confusing.

    Last comments are on our need for kicking away possession. WHY do we do it,so often off of a kickoff, even when we are making forward progress?! It is clear it is not a situational tactical decision, as opponents have numbers back and the field covered. I could see if we somehow committed the fullback and wing to defend the line, but it is rarely the case if ever. Even with reduced frequency of box kicks, we kicked them straight to touch from in front of the 22, we got penalized for obstructions...and so on. For all of the box kicks and kicks from behind the ruck when not under pressure, we garnered ONE scrum. ONE. So we kicked away possess at least 7 times I recall, and got one scrum up about 20 meters. We also did not generally gain field position from these kicks - so STOP using this as a primary tactic. We do much better with ball in hand, though admittedly that was a bit of an issue for us in the middle 40 minutes of the half.

    But I would be remiss to not applaud and congratulate the extreme effort by the guys, so bravo on that!

  • Guest (Doug)

    I was there yesterday, and there are a couple of things that are not written about yesterday's game; first, the Eagles had a terrible game, vis-à-vis stopping the wing/outside pressure- it was very bad - the centers collapsed almost every time and gave an over-lap to the Canucks every time..2nd - 2nd - we had a couple of things that seem to indicate bad coaching -1) there were at least 2 times in the 2nd half that the OC did not recognize that there was an overlap for an easy score; 2nd - it wasn't clear that the inside 8 to the US coaching staff was overpowering the Canadian side - they should have kept the pressure inside - WAY TOO MUCH kicking back to the Canadian backs!!! OK, good game, but if they play that way in Chicago - it's a 40 point defate.

  • Guest (Marine Bill)

    The comments have been made for years about Petri's ill conceived use of the box kick. Look at every comment section where he played and there will be a negative comment about his ineptitude in kicking away possession. In my humble opinion, this is solely a reflection upon the team's coaching e.g. Mike Tolkin. He was Petri's high school coach and he coached him at NYAC as well. While Petri did well to make it this far, he does not have the physical skill nor mental agility to continue to compete at the international level (hence why he is teaching at his alma mater, and not playing professionally). The only reason I believe he is still on the squad is out of nepotism from Tolkin. Tolkin, Petri, and L'Estrange must GO! The three lack the imagination and adaptability to the modern game.

  • Guest (Rugged)

    I counted two tries as result of basic errors from Lavalla at 7, one just making him look slow on the corner post scrum with basic pass to wing , second not properly popping up after tackle and contesting for the ball letting the Canadian player run unmolseted for a try. Barret is making huge gains, he deserves the 7 spot.

  • Guest (5Lock4ward)

    In reply to: Guest (Rugged)

    Agreed. I'm a huge supporter of Barrett at 7 and Lavalla at 6.

  • Guest (Rugger)

    In reply to: Guest (Rugged)

    That second try was not lavallas fault, shalom suniula was standing right in front of hearn after he got tackled and moved away to they right being worried about the threat out wide. That try was poor game awareness by suniula and other eagles, not lavalla though.

  • Guest (Bryan B)

    The criticism in this thread has gone too far without proper acknowledgement of the efforts to secure a victory last week. For those intent on blatantly flaming the team, its players, and coaches, be sure to know that your comments do absolutely nothing to improve the team, its players, and coaches.

    I am even willing to bet these same flamers, if they have a pulse, were on the edge of their seat for the entire second half, cheered wildly while we took the lead, went absolutely ape in extended time when the team withstood phase after phase of attack playing with ten men, and high-fived everyone in the room after the final whistle blew.

    Congrats to the team on a monumental victory over a team that has had our number for nearly five years. Wyles, who looked as if he tore every ligament in his knee, stayed in the match to slot not one but two off-center kicks. Clever played like a man possessed, Manoa made multiple huge hits behind the gain line, Petri was solid at scrum, Kelly is a star in the making, etc., etc.

    Not sure if anyone noticed our scrum’s vast improvement from recent matches, or the fact our backs played solid defense with ball in hand and put together excellent phases throughout the match. And what about the Wyles-Scully combinations? Those two have contributed to a half-dozen tries the prior two matches!

    Bottom line here is that neither side played a perfect match, and neither side ever will. For the true fans who have followed the team longer than the past few months, this Eagles team – WHICH JUST QUALIFIED FOR THE WORLD CUP – is light years improved from its 2011 squad. I hope others join me in praising the efforts of our boys to drown out the small minority of fair-weathered flamers. A big congratulations again to the team for a fantastic display of rugby and this fan eagerly awaits the NZD match in November.

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