Despite Late Comeback, U.S. Select XV Lose Nail-Biter to Ontario
MARKHAM, Ontario – Despite a valiant comeback at the hands of U.S. captain Kevin Swiryn, the American Select XV side lost, 27-24, in the final moments as the Ontario Blues made a match-ending penalty kick to clinch the bronze medal in the inaugural Americas Rugby Championship on Saturday.
“The game obviously could have gone either way,” Select XVs Head Coach Paul Keeler said. “Unfortunately, we made too many mistakes early on that directly affected the score. Although it shouldn’t have come down to those last minutes, our team was definitely playing better towards the end of the match and it was really nice to see them play for a full 80 minutes.”
In front of an Ontario home crowd, the U.S. found itself under pressure literally from the start, as newcomer Dallas Robinson received a yellow-card after hitting a Blues player in the air on the kick-off. The Select XVs would find themselves down to a select 14 for the next 10 minutes.
Although there wasn’t a lot of harm done in those first 10 minutes, Ontario was able to get on the board first, after Mike Scholz weaved his way past the U.S. defense and touched down the first try. With just two minutes off the clock, the Blues had a 7-0 lead.
The U.S. bounced back strong and in the 11th minute Swiryn was allowed a bit of space to touch down his first try of the match. Nese Malifa would convert to tie it up and the U.S. would restart at full strength.
The remainder of the first half saw Ontario score two penalties and a try, expanding their lead to 18-7. Malifa missed an attainable penalty for the U.S. early on, but was able to make up for it with his decisive play and a successful penalty kick near the end of the half to bring the Select XV to within eight at the break.
Similar to the first half, the second half saw several missed scoring opportunities for the U.S. The Select XV were getting good breaks and putting together successful, consecutive phases, but after a couple knock-ons near the goal line and some small mistakes, the prospect of a comeback began to dwindle as full time neared.
Following two impressive penalty kicks by Steve Piatek, the U.S. found itself down by two converted tries with just 15 minutes left to play.
The USA, however, wasn’t giving up and in the 70th minute, Swiryn, who had scored the USA’s first try nearly 60 minutes earlier, saw an opening and scored under the post for his second of the match. As Volney Rouse converted with just seven minutes on the clock, the momentum had clearly switched, albeit briefly, and the U.S. quickly took advantage of an Ontario error off the restart and forced a turnover that ended up in the hands of Nic Johnson, who made a strong break up the middle.
Eventually, the ball found its way back into the hands of Swiryn, who was touching the ball down under the posts once again. After Rouse’s second conversion, the U.S. had successfully made up its 14-point differential within the course of five minutes and just had to hold the determined Canadian provincial side for a few minutes longer if they wanted a chance at pushing the game into overtime and compete for the bronze.
“I think it says a lot about these guys’ heart and mentality to be able to stay focused on the task at hand and come back like that in the last 10 minutes,” Swiryn said. “It was a total team effort and there’s no doubt that they didn’t leave everything on the field.”
Holding the Blues wouldn’t prove easy though, and after a couple of Ontario line breaks and successful phases toward the goal line, the U.S. gave their competitors the opening they had been looking for and committed a penalty within striking distance. Piatek’s kick cleared the uprights and the whistle blew seconds later with the home-side on top, 27-24.
“We had the definite advantage,” Ontario Head Coach Les Gilsen said. “We were able to play five matches before coming into this match and you could see that the U.S. Team was getting better and better as the game went on. The time we had together definitely helped our defense and I was proud of how we stuck together and got the job done at the end.”
The U.S. Select XV finish the tournament in fourth place, following the Ontario Blues, BC Bears and Argentina Jaguars, which take home the Americas Rugby Championship title with its 35-11 win over British Columbia in today’s later match.
For more information on USA Rugby and its representative sides, please visit www.usarugby.org. For more information on the ARC, visit www.americasrugbychampionship.com.
Americas Rugby Championship
Bronze Medal Match
Fletchers Fields – Markham, Ontario
October 17, 2009
Ontario Blues 27, USA Select XV 24
Ontario Starting Lineup: 15. Dan Gordon; 14. Colin Brown; 13. Mike Scholz; 12. Derek Daypuck; 11. Dan West; 10. Steve Piatek; 9. Adam Schouten; 8. Mark MacSween; 7. Allistair Clark; 6. Keegan Selby; 5. Scott Dunham; 4. Brett Beukeboom (For 18 Murray (Sub at 52) at 40 minutes); 3. Dan Pletch; 2. Mike Pletch; 1. Doug Wooldridge;
Reserves: 16 Thomas Dolezel (For 1 Wooldridge at 52 minutes); 18. Haddon Murray (For 4 Beukeboom (Blood) at 28 minutes); 19. Steve Shortlly (For 12 Daypuck at 69 minutes); 21. Ryan MacSween (For 14 Brown at 69 minutes).
Tries: Scholz, MacSween
Penalties: Piatek (5)
USA Select XV Starting Lineup: 15. Nicholas Edwards; 14. Dallas Robinson; 13. Kevin Swiryn; 12. Milemoti Pulu; 11. Leonard Peters; 10. Nese Malifa; 9 Benny Mateialona; 8; Patrick Danahy; 7. Peter Dahl; 6. Daniel LaPrevotte; 5. Kevin Erskine; 4. Ryan McTiernan; 3. Tony Lewis; 2 Brian McClenahan; 1.Jimmy Jewison;
Reserves: 16. Phil Thiel (For 3 Lewis at 50 minutes); 17. Jamie Hugh (For 1 Jewison at 50 minutes); 18. Brian Doyle (For 5 Erskine at 55 minutes); 19. Nic Johnson (For 5 Erskine (Blood) at 28 minutes); 20 Don Pati; 21. Volney Rouse (For 10 Malifa at 65 minutes); 22. Corey Blair (For 14 Robinson at 21 minutes).
Tries: Swiryn (3)
Conversions: Malifa, Rouse (2)