Canada got their June Test campaign off to a winning start with a 28-25 victory over the USA Eagles at Queen's University's Richardson Stadium in Kingston, Ontario on Saturday.
New Canada skipper Aaron Carpenter scored the winning try in front of 7,521 fans in an end-to-end clash that saw both sides touch down three times.
The goal-kicking of Canada full-back James Pritchard proved the difference between the North American rivals as he slotted five from six for 13 points while Carpenter was named man-of-the-match for his inspiring performance.
It could have gone either way in a match riddled with errors on both sides. However, poor tackling and handling errors would mark the Eagles' demise in an otherwise hard-fought encounter.
Canada scored first in the fourth minute when Matt Evans was able to dummy and run straight through the U.S. defence from 22 metres out, scoring near the posts. James Pritchard converted to make it 7-0 Canada.
The U.S. replied four minutes later from a scrum 45 metres out when Chris Wyles received a nifty pass from Paul Emerick, pinned his man, and put debutant Luke Hume into space for a try in the corner. Will Holder's kick missed the conversion from out wide and it was 7-5 Canada.
Canada struck right back with a try from Ciaran Hearn, who exposed an overlap in numbers out on the wing. Pritchard made the touchline conversion to increase the lead to 14-5.
Two penalties kicked by the Americans and one by the home side meant the gap closed to 17-11.
In the 30th minute James Paterson then inserted himself in the 9-10 channel, and Holder offloaded inside to Paterson who hit the gap at full pace. With the successful conversion, the U.S took the lead from the first time, 18-17.
Canada had the last say in the half when the U.S. conceded a penalty in the 34th minute. Pritchard kicked three more points to return the lead to Canada, 20-18 at the break.
The second period would be much slower with both teams trying to sort out the issues of the first half, but it was Canada who enjoyed most of the possession for the opening 20 minutes.
Pritchard extended the lead to 23-18 shortly after the restart
Canada dealt the killer blow when Luke Hume attempted to find touch from deep in his own territory. D.T.H. van der Merwe countered with a swerving run before finding Carpenter, who scored in the corner after outrunning the cover defence.
The U.S. came back hard in the dying minutes and the Canadian defence held until the 78th, when flanker Scott Lavalla barged over near the posts.
"It was a tough game and a real nail-biter at the end, but we were happy to take the win," stated Canada head coach Kieran Crowley after the game.
"We gave up silly penalties and gave them free yardage," Crowley added.
"That had us playing frantically and the U.S. made us pay for it. But it was a win in a test match and we're happy for that."
"We played in peaks and valleys and had some rusty moments," commented U.S. coach Mike Tolkin.
"Like Canada, we are just getting back together for the first time.
"We will be looking for improvements over the next few games."
Canada face Italy in a rare night game at Toronto's BMO field on Friday while the Eagles now move to Glendale, Colorado where they will take on Georgia at Infinity Park on June 16.
Tries: Evans, Hearn, Carpenter
Cons: Pritchard 2
Pens: Pritchard 3
Tries: Hume, Paterson, Lavalla
Cons: Holder 2
Pens: Holder 2
Yellow card: O'Toole (Canada - trip)
Canada : 15 James Pritchard , 14 Sean Duke, 13 D.T.H. van der Merwe, 12 Mike Scholz, 11 Ciaran Hearn, 10 Matt Evans, 9 Sean White, 8 Aaron Carpenter (C), 7 Chauncey O'Toole, 6 Nanyak Dala, 5 Tyler Hotson, 4 Brett Beukeboom, 3 Andrew Tiedemann, 2 Ryan Hamilton, 1 Hubert Buydens.
Replacements: 16 Jason Marshall, 17 Tom Dolezel, 18 Jebb Sinclair, 19 Tyler Ardron, 20 Kyle Armstrong, 21 Phil Mackenzie, 22 Jeff Hassler.
U.S.A: 15 Chris Wyles, 14 James Paterson, 13 Paul Emerick, 12 Andrew Suniula, 11 Luke Hume, 10 Will Holder, 9 Mike Petri, 8 Todd Clever (C), 7 Andrew Durutalo, 6 Scott Lavalla, 5 Brian Doyle, 4 Louis Stanfill, 3 Eric Fry, 2 Chris Biller, 1 Mike MacDonald.
Replacements: 16 Derek Asbun 17 Shawn Pittman 18 Tom Katzfey 19 Taylor Mokate 20 Shaun Davies 21 Roland Suniula 22 Colin Hawley
Referee: Marius Jonker (South Africa)