Canada Takes Early Lead in Can-Am Series

29 Mar 2017

CHULA VISTA, Calif. - Scoring five tries in the final 40 minutes Tuesday, Canada took a 39-5 advantage over the USA Women's Eagles in the 2017 Can-Am Series at the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center.

Tyson Beukeboom recorded a second-half hat trick as Canada compounded a Christiane Pheil yellow card to peel away from a 10-5 halftime score line. Olympian Alev Kelter scored her first international try in a tightly-contested first half, while collegiate student-athletes Kayla Canett and Annakaren Pedraza earned debuts from the bench. The final match of the Series is scheduled for Saturday, April 1, at 6 p.m. ET, with Head Coach Pete Steinberg's squad needing a 35-point victory to secure the CanAm Cup. The match will be broadcast live on The Rugby Channel.

"We came out with some real intensity in the first half," Steinberg said following the defeat. "Unfortunately we didn't come out with that same intensity in the second half. There's some learning that happens with a team that's young like we are. We have to help our players manage their intensity throughout the game; something we'll work on for Saturday."

The clear day offered perfect conditions for a rugby match in Southern California, and the teams challenged each other with pace in the opening 20 minutes of their first meeting since last summer's Women's Rugby Super Series. The Eagles were put under pressure immediately following a knock from the restart, and turned over possession from a five-meter lineout five minutes into the match.

"The stand in the first five minutes of the game was a real turning point for us in the first half," Steinberg said.

The Eagles used the momentum gained from the defensive play to go to work offensively. Inside center Sylvia Braaten broke through the gain line in the seventh minute when her side turned over Canada's scrum, and Kelter combined with debutant Kristen Thomas to cross the 22. Though possession was given away through a penalty, the Eagles kept Magali Harvey's unsuccessful touch-finder only to negate a strong Naya Tapper run to another knock.

Karen Paquin nearly opened the scoring in the 11th minute with space to run on the wing, but she couldn't escape the Eagle defense, finding touch. A loose ball in the 16th-minute attack was kicked away by Harvey and the U.S. recovered to see the Women's Eagles Sevens trio of Joanne Fa'avesi, Kelter, and Thomas combine to enter the attacking half, winning a penalty. Following a pair of turnovers, Alycia Washington used a strong fend and powerful stride to break away from three defenders. Successive lineouts in the attacking half could not be turned into points, however, with a penalty in the offensive 22 turning over possession.

The Eagles were able to move the ball with confidence in the face of the third-ranked team in the world, but were undone by an unnecessary offload in the 22nd minute and a blocked kick in the 25th. Canada recovered the kick and sent Paquin over the line to open the scoring, 5-0.

Not letting the game slip away so easily, the U.S. replied quickly from a 28th-minute scrum. It took several defenders to finally bring down No. 8 Jordan Gray, but the space was open out wide for the Eagles to recycle and give Kelter the room to dive into the try zone. The conversion was unsuccessful for a tie game, 5-5.

Pheil's 31st-minute run preceded a well-worked lineout won in the air by the flanker, but a knock led to Jacey Grusnick streaking down the field to the 10. The Eagles conceded a penalty in their own end and heard another whistle for not retreating 10 meters. There was momentary respite as Canada's ensuing lineout was not thrown straight, but a misplaced feed into the scrum allowed Canada to attack the try line with crash-ball moves until Carolyn McEwen broke the plane.

The 10-5 score line was a neat representation of the way the first half went as the Eagles failed to capitalize on the opportunities they created. The second half went much the same way, beginning with a deserved yellow card for multiple penalties halting Canada's opening attack. Two tries - Beukeboom's first and one to captain Kelly Russell - in five minutes pushed the Canadian lead to 20-5.

Canada benefitted from another penalty against the Eagles to start a 52nd-minute attack at midfield before Harvey lost a chase into touch. Tapper then made the tackle of the game on Harvey when the U.S. attempted to clear the danger, chasing the high ball and timing her hit perfectly. Canada had the last laugh, pouncing on another failed offload in front of the posts and successive penalty to send Beukeboom over for her second. She capped her hat trick 10 minutes later and Harvey converted for a 32-5 lead, and substitute Brianna Miller rounded out the scoring in the final minute for the 39-5 final score.

The Eagles were able to put together a sustained attack on the final play of the game to threaten the try line, with the young half-back duo of Canett and Pedraza leading the charge. Reserve Nicole Heavirland also activated the back line with fresh legs as the U.S. pushed forward, ultimately coming up empty handed to one last penalty.

"For a bunch of players that haven't played together with a slightly changed structure, we created some really threatening opportunities," Steinberg said. "That was exciting. What's exciting, too, is to have half-back pairing that could be playing in the 2029 World Cup take the field.

"Heading into Saturday, it's about consistency and understanding what we're trying to do. The Canadians showed their experience by taking it to us in the second half. We were able to respond in pieces, but not consistently."

Canada's victory cuts the Eagles' lead in the all-time rivalry series to 18-17 heading into Saturday. The 36th match between the border nations is scheduled to kick off from the Chula Vista Athlete Training Center at 6 p.m. ET, with the live broadcast exclusively available on The Rugby Channel.

USA Women's Eagles | v. Canada 
1. Tiffany Faaee (C) (Reddick @ 56') 
2. Joanna Kitlinski 
3. Catherine Benson (Reinhardt @ 61') 
4. Stacey Bridges 
5. Alycia Washington (Kinsella @ 51') 
6. Christiane Pheil 
7. Nicole Strasko (Parsons @ 61') 
8. Jordan Gray 
9. Joanne Fa'avesi (Pedraza @ 54') 
10. Megan Foster (Canett @ 71') 
11. Naya Tapper 
12. Sylvia Braaten (VC) (Heavirland @ 58') 
13. Alev Kelter 
14. Kristen Thomas 
15. Jess Wooden

USA Women's Eagles | Reserves 
16. Phaidra Knight 
17. Naima Reddick 
18. Jamila Reinhardt 
19. Molly Kinsella 
20. Sara Parsons 
21. Annakaren Pedraza 
22. Kayla Canett 
23. Nicole Heavirland

Canada | v. USA 
1. Carolyn McEwen 
2. Laura Russell 
3. DaLeaka Menin 
4. Kayla Mack 
5. Latoya Blackwood 
6. Jacey Grusnick 
7. Karen Paquin 
8. Kelly Russell 
9. Chelsea Guthrie 
10. Emily Belchos 
11. Frederique Rajotte 
12. Andrew Burk 
13. Amanda Thornborough 
14. Magali Harvey 
15. Julianne Zussman

Canada | Reserves 
16. Jane Kirby 
17. Brittany Kassil 
18. Olivia DeMerchant 
19. Tyson Beukeboom 
20. Cindy Nelles 
21. Brianna Miller 
22. Brittany Waters 
23. Elissa Alarie

USA Women's Eagles | 5 
Tries: Kelter 
Conversions: N/A 
Discipline: Pheil (Yellow)

Canada | 39 
Tries: Paquin, McEwen, Beukeboom (3), K. Russell, Miller 
Conversions: Harvey (2)

USA Women's Eagles | Can-Am Series 
v. Canada - L 39-5 
v. Canada - Saturday, April 1 @ 6 p.m. ET