The Canadian rugby team started its game against the United States the way it wanted to with a strong first half. The second half, however, was a different story.
Brett Thompson scored a try in the 68th minute and Chris Wyles got a successful conversion to lead the U.S. to a 38-35 comeback win over Canada on Saturday in a Pacific Nations match at Bonney Field.
Canada, which led by 10 at halftime, tried in desperation to get a try in the last two minutes of the contest, but the U.S. defence met them at ever turn.
"I think we were doing well up until then, but then we started playing poorly," said Canada's coach, Kiernan Crowley. "We didn't make any tackles and you can't afford to do that and we can't afford to give away the amount of penalties that we gave away. It was just a pretty poor performance by us."
Harry Jones led Canada with two tries, while Aaron Carpenter, James Pritchard, and Ciaran Hearn each scored one try. Pritchard had four conversions after tries.
Blaine Scully led the Americans with two tries while Wyles and Thompson scored the others. The U.S. made three conversions and Wyles had four off of penalties.
The U.S. jumped out 3-0 early in the first half, but Canada came back to lead 7-6 on a try from Jones and a conversion from Pritchard. Canada scored twice before the end of the first half and led with a 28-18 margin.
"They were scoring off our mistakes," said U.S. centre Folau Niua. "They attacked us really well on turnovers. But what I like is that we didn't panic. Our captain gave us a few words and that was to play together."
Canada picked up where it left off, striking early on Jones' second try of the night for a 35-18 command at the 43rd minute of the second half.
The Americans mounted their comeback by scoring the next 10 points before retaking the lead 38-35 in the 70th minute.
Both teams played with intensity around the goal-line in the last two minutes of the match. But it was the U.S. defence that conquered the moment, which ended with Scully recovering a turnover and Niua kicking the ball out of play to end Canada's effort.
"At that time it was all on the line," said U.S. reserve Eric Fry. "We knew they were down three, didn't want to give up any penalties, and keep them under pressure."
The U.S. had not beaten Canada since 2009 in South Carolina. The attendance at Bonney Field was sold out at 8,000 spectators.
A Sacramento native, Fry was proud his team could beat its rival in his hometown.
"There's always a lot of passion in this game," Fry said. "It's just a great rival between the two countries. It's also great bragging rights."