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Canada Win U23 Border Battle Series

  • 30 Jul 2023
USA Rugby graphic

The Canada U23s have won the Border Battle against the USA U23s in convincing fashion, taking Sunday’s rematch 55-14. The two-match series occurred at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Quincy, Mass., thanks to the support of the XV Foundation and New England Free Jacks. [USA Rugby graphic]

The teams were tied at 7-7 when the first water break occurred at the 20-minute mark. Canada played with more possession, but the USA defense stood up. Captain Keia Mae Sagapolu set the pace off the line, and Mona Tupou worked hard all 80 minutes to keep that physicality at a premium. The forwards defended an attacking maul well, Su Adegoke counterrucked Canada off its ball, Aly Cunningham raced onto a bouncing ball to relieve pressure – but all of this activity was happening in the USA’s end.

Flyhalf Kristin Bitter again did a great job off the boot, and both sides fielded booming kicks perfectly. The problem was the lineout. When Canada was forced to kick to touch, it was able to regain possession in that set piece, and those turnovers were impactful.

Keia Mae Sagapolu rugby

Keia Mae Sagapolu / Photo: USA Rugby

Thirteen minutes in, flanker Julia Omokhuale broke through the sideline defense then connected with the back three supporting back inside. Fullback Savannah Bauder dotted down the try and flyhalf Claire Gallagher added the extras, 7-0.

Minutes later, vice captain Kapoina Bailey hit Bitter at pace for a nice gain, and the flyhalf drew a not-releasing penalty inside Canada’s 22. The ball moved wide from the scrum and into inside center Eti Haungatau’s hands. Just before contact, Haungatau hit wing Leila Opeti inserted off the hip for the line-break. From the ruck, Haungatau sent that expert skip pass to Adegoke and the wing fought to the line before popping to Haungatau for the try. Bitter hit a banger of a conversion from the sideline: 7-7.

Immediately after the first-quarter water break, Canada put down the first of four additional first-half tries. The restart hit the ground and took several unfortunate bounces, which allowed the attack to swarm and turn over ball. The close-range lineout mauled to the line and prop Zoe Williams scored the first of two first-half tries. Lost lineouts, driving mauls and connected phases inside the USA 22 produced three more tries from Williams, wing Carmen Izyk and Tylo Borsboom. Bauder kicked three of four conversions for the 33-7 lead into the break.

The USA continued to play a lot of defense in the second half, and holes formed deeper into phase play. Canada scored four more tries from Izyk, Gallagher, Corinne Frechette and Maelle Reed. Bauder added one conversion for a 55-7 lead after 67 minutes.

But in the final 10 minutes, the USA played with some momentum. The Americans built pressure inside Canada’s 22 and forced a yellow card after multiple infractions. After several phases at the line, the hard-working Tupou circled back into position, took the short pass with a burst and pushed off two defenders before slamming the ball down. Bitter converted for the 55-14 finale.

Although the USA lost both matches, the games against the Canada U23s were massively beneficial. Game time of any sort is valuable and this summer has provided staff with lots of feedback and intel into the player pool. And again, several players who have been playing across multiple age grades and the Women’s National Team got loads of field time, including in Quincy. Plenty from which to build.

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