Canada ended a 12-match winless streak against the United States by winning the first leg of their Rugby World Cup qualifying series 34-21 in Newfoundland on Saturday.
The Canadians rallied from a 14-10 halftime deficit with three successive converted tries to lead 34-14 only to concede a late third try to the Americans.
The teams meet again next Saturday in Glendale, Colorado. The aggregate winner will face Uruguay in October for a place in the 2023 World Cup in France. The loser will meet Chile to determine who progresses to a playoff.
Even after having two forwards sin-binned in the first 20 minutes, penalty-plagued Canada led until the end of the first half when USA Eagles flanker Jamason Fa’anana-Schultz was mauled over the tryline. The visitors led 14-10 but lost their most experienced player, No 8 Cam Dolan, to a head injury.
Also, star flyhalf AJ MacGinty, expected to be Eagles captain, started on the bench after travel complications and didn’t appear until the second half.
But the second half was all Canada’s. Tries by flanker Lucas Rumball, centre Ben LeSage and wing Brock Webster from an intercept on debut, along with four goal-kicks by Peter Nelson, set up Canada to end a 10-Test losing run dating to 2019.
The late converted try to Eagles replacement back Tavita Lopeti on debut reduced the deficit to 13 which the USA will have to make up for in the second leg next weekend.