England Saxons became the final Churchill Cup champions in comfortable style as they secured a 37-6 win over Canada.
England Saxons became the final Churchill Cup champions in comfortable style as they secured a 37-6 victory over Canada at Sixways.
Miles Benjamin scored two spectacular tries on his home ground to earn the hosts a sixth Churchill Cup title win.
The Worcester wing raced 70 metres for a first half interception try – then soared to claim Rory Clegg's superb cross-kick and put the Saxons out of sight on the hour.
Sale Sharks flanker James Gaskell, Gloucester wing Charlie Sharples and London Irish loose forward Jamie Gibson also touched down with Harlequins fly-half Clegg adding three conversions and two penalties against a hard-nosed Canada side that proved tough to break down.
They responded with a first-half drop goal from fly-half Ander Munro and a penalty from James Pritchard but couldn't turn some thrilling counter-attacks into points on the board.
The Saxons had broken a Churchill Cup points record with their 13-try 87-8 win over the USA and followed it up with a 41-14 win against Tonga that included three penalty tries.
Canada, though, are a level above both those teams at 15th in the IRB rankings and recognised as a well-organised side with a mean-spirited defence which they underlined for long spells at Sixways.
So while the Saxons enjoyed plenty of early possession, they only had Rory Clegg's penalty – cancelled out by Munro's drop goal – in the bank after the opening 20 minutes.
They broke the deadlock with one superb score – Jordan Crane, Mike Brown and Gaskell combining down the left for Sale back-rower to score in the right-hand corner.
Three minutes later it was Gaskell's defensive pressure that delivered the ball to Benjamin who intercepted and went 80 metres to strike under the posts.
Clegg's conversion put the Saxons 15-3 ahead but Canada dug in again and Pritchard kicked a 30th minute penalty and missed an equally kickable one shortly before the interval.
Clegg extended the lead with his second penalty 10 minutes into the second half and Canada survived one major scare when the fly-half's angled low kick created mayhem in their defence.
Chauncey O'Toole led one thrilling counter-attack though and Ciaran Hearn produced another surge down the right that threatened to haul Canada back into the game.
But their resistance was finally broken 20 minutes from time by Benjamin's second score, Clegg's cross-kick plucked out of the air at full pelt by the Worcester wing.
As the game broke up Canada were punished again as they lost the ball in attack, Mouritz Botha kicking through and Sharples regathering and holding off a tackler to roll over and score.
Gibson added a fifth try five minutes from time, following up to finish things off after Henry Trinder's lightning break through the middle.
Italy A 27-18 Tonga
Marco Bortolami saluted his Italy A players after they lifted the Churchill Cup Plate at Sixways on Saturday.
The skipper, whose side had spluttered throughout the tournament, came good when it counted with a victory that secured them third place with a 27-18 win over Tonga.
“We improved a lot and we put in a good performance,” said Bortolami.
“We have some young players and they need experience. It was terrible against Canada, better against Tonga, but was a real improvement.”
Flyhalf Riccardo Bocchino opened the scoring following a dominant scrum from the Italians in the opposition '22 and Tito Tebaldi converted.
A penalty from Etimoni Paea narrowed the margin after 16 minutes but was quickly followed by three points from the Azzurri after indiscipline at the breakdown from the Tongans.
Bocchino chipped away at the scoreboard with a second successful penalty, while the Tongans continued to make dents with their typically ferocious tackles but failed to make a further impression on the scoreboard before half-time.
A sprightly start to the second half saw Italy advance further with Tebaldi again slotting his third successful penalty to take his side 13-3 ahead.
With momentum on their side, the Italians found an injection of flair when Joshua Furno's dummy pass on the wing set Andrea Pratichetti up for the Italians' second try.
Having struggled to conjure a try during 50 minutes of play, the Tongans showed up in style as Viliami Iongi struck from just inside the 22, weaved through a handful of defenders and scored in the corner. The conversion was missed to leave Tonga 12 points behind.
A period of exchanges between the two sides ended when Etimoni Paea slotted a further three points for the Tongans, narrowing the margin to nine points.
Giovanbattista Venditti scored a try to equal the panash of Iongi's, sprinting the length of the pitch to score his side's third try.
A try in the closing minutes from Mateo Malupo and a conversion from Kurt Morath was but consolation for Tonga.
USA 32-25 Russia
Todd Clever lifted the Churchill Cup Bowl at Sixways in Saturday to give the United States Eagles a boost ahead of their World Cup showdown with Russia.
After a shocking start to their Churchill campaign – heavy defeats to England Saxons and Tonga – they salvaged a victory Saturday's 32-25 victory, courtesy of a try nine minutes from time by Tai Enosa.
US Eagles flyhalf and man-of-the-match Nese Malifa said: “We knew Russia were going to come out hard and that we had to take the fight to them. Hats off to the boys – it was a big day at the office.”
The teams will meet in New Plymouth, New Zealand, on September 15 and Russian boss Kingsley Jones admitted: “If we could have kept hold of the ball more we could have won. The US were smarter than us at the breakdown. We are taking two steps forward and one step back but we need to take the positives out of this tournament.”
Yury Kushnarev and Malifa traded early penalties in an even first 20 minutes before the US No.10 put a second chance wide.
The Eagles made several breaks and they eventually got through after Andrew Suniula brushed off five tacklers before being hauled down short of the line. The ball was recycled and Malifa sent Paul Emerick over.
Russia hit back to level the scores at 8-8 with a try from Vladimir Ostroushko after taking Kushnarev's miss pass after a solid scrum platform put the Eagles under pressure.
And the Bears almost scored the try from the end of Sixways when they counter attacked from in front of their own posts and, 80 metres later, only a knock-on prevented the score.
The Russians, intent on keeping the ball in hand, spurned a penalty chance to go for touch but their endeavour was not matched by their ability to win the subsequent line-out and the chance was lost.
Kushnarev and Malifa added another penalty apiece before Russia grabbed their second try when Igo Klyuchnikov made the break, Ostroushko jinked his way closer down the wing and Alexander Voytov trundled in from Alexander Sahkirov's pass.
Malifa kept the Eagles in touch when he created a try for Suniula, who checked