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Second half gives win for USA U20s

Playing an entertaining brand of rugby, the USA U20 defeated Canada's U20s 40-24 Saturday in Ottawa.

Report: Goff on rugby

Played before the Pacific Four games, this game provided some fireworks from both sides, and was anyone's game until late in the second half.

Canada looked to play wide and use turnovers to cause the USA trouble. The Canadians were very quick over the ball and when the Americans weren't careful with their work on the ground or clearing out, Canada created chances.

In addition, outside centre Carissa Norsten was outstanding—whether on attack or playing defence Norsten was hugely effective. But Canada's connections were sometimes a bit slow and the USA defence took advantage.

The Canadians started on the front foot after a long break from Norsten. However, the USA defence held, just, and then they broke out. USA flyhalf Alissa Eisenhart couldn't handle the pass designed to set her up for a clearance kick. The ball went backward, however, and Eisenhart, regathered, and cut through a gap left by the Canadians. Norsten flattened the USA flyhalf but the Americans were now on the front foot. Eventually the ball was sent to wing Sereana Vulaono and she put on a burst of speed and was gone to score from 50 meters.

As she had all tour, Eisenhart added the extras and it was 7-0 USA.

Conscious that the USA had been able to make big breaks off restarts, Canada kicked deep and into space. That allowed them to once again threaten the USA line, and once again the Americans got out of trouble—this time prop Kambria Hartrick stole the ball in the rugby and charged ahead. Her effort was backed up by her teammates, and then a kick from fullback Ashley Cowdrey was knocked on and the USA had another chance. From that scrum they spun it wide quickly, and while they ended up in touch, the USA kept looking to go wide. A long pass set up Cowdrey to cut through and then Tiahna Padilla cut back to score near the posts for a brilliant team try. Eisenhart kicked the conversion and it was 14-0.

Then it seemed like Canada turned a switch. A kick to wing Victoria Stanley for Canada saw her cut into the middle of the field looking to make a pass. Everyone marked her support so Stanley kept going and blasted through to score almost untouched. That made it 14-7. Not that long after, a disorganized defence left a gap that allowed Norsten to slice through and race in for a try. The kick was no good but now it was 17-12. USA penalties and missed tackles—and certainly some impatience—helped put Canada in scoring position again and they was over just before halftime to take a 17-14 lead.

It was a sobering lesson for the USA about waiting for the turnover rather than trying to force it at every tackle. Too many USA penalties had put them behind.

But they fixed that relatively quickly. It was Canada that was guilty of giving up penalties and the Junior Eagles used that to set up a maul. That maul was collapsed, and at the next one Canada was offside. Perhaps another lineout-and-maul was there to use but the USA opted instead for a tap penalty and a surge from AJ Haughey allowed the forwards to back her up to get it over. Eisenhart converted and the Americans were back in the lead—a lead they would keep to the end.

A restart error set up the USA to attack soon thereafter and an excellent break from Vulaono almost produced a try. Canada held on, but after Cowdrey (now playing scrumhalf) charged down a kick the Americans took a scrum five meters out and Haughey was able to take it over. Eisenhart proved she was human by missing the conversion, but the lead was now two scored at 26-17.

Canada's restart was not 10 meters and so back came the Junior Eagles. Vulaono cut through and fed Padilla, who was almost over. She was dragged down short of the line and while eventually the Americans were held up, they kept up the pressure. Finally the forwards crashed over, with lock Cindy Taulava scoring. Eisenhart was back on target and now it was 33-17.

And then the try of the day, or, really, any day. The USA received the restart and the ball was sent out to prop Akilah Cathey, on as a reserve. Big and powerful, Cathey also can run—boy can she run. She blasted through a couple of tacklers, outpaced several backs, and then split the final two cover defenders (who were not thrilled about having to try to stop her). When all was said and done Cathey, a product of the excellent Memphis Inner-City Rugby program and now a sophomore at Brown, had left everyone in her wake and scored from 68 meters out. It was astonishing. Eisenhart converted to make it 40-17.

Canada ended with Norsten blazing her own trail for her second try, but the USA had control by then.

The USA returns home having won this three-team series with a 28-27 victory over Wales and a 40-24 victory over Canada.

USA 40
Tries: Volaono, Padilla, Forwards, Haughey, Taulava, Cathey
Convs: Eisenhart 5

Canada 24
Tries: Norsten 2, Stanley, Other
Convs: Atkins, Maye