USA, Canada draw in World Cup qualifying opener
MATCH REPORT: Mike Te'o and Nick Civetta each scored two tries for the United States as the Eagles played host Canada to a 28-28 draw Saturday in a 2019 Rugby World Cup qualifier.
South African-born DTH. van der Merwe scored two tries for Canada and Irish-born Shane O'Leary added two conversions and three penalty kicks, the last in the 78th minute to lift the hosts into a deadlock.
The dramatic result before 13 187 at the home of Canadian football's Hamilton Tiger-Cats sent the two-leg qualifying series into a winner-take-all showdown next Saturday at San Diego, California.
The winner books a 2019 berth in Japan while the loser faces another series against a South American rival to reach the next World Cup.
The Canadians have not lost a qualifying match to the United States since 2009, but that was only the fifth time in 20 qualifying matches they failed to win.
Van der Merwe and Civetta, teammates next season at English Premiership side Newcastle, each scored two first-half tries.
Van der Merwe, who spent lengthy Pro12 stints with Glasgow and Scarlets before joining the Falcons next season, took an offload from Andrew Cow and scored in the eighth minute.
Civetta answered in the ninth minute after Canada couldn't gather the kick-off as the visitors equalized 7-7.
Co-captain Van der Merwe scored a historic try in the 18th minute to put Canada back on top, breaking free from a ruck and finding the corner for his 25th career try to break Winston Stanley's all-time Canadian try record.
O'Leary missed the conversion but his penalty kick in the 26th minute gave Canada a 15-7 edge.
Civetta struck again in the 35th minute, powering over from a driving maul off a line-out, and MacGinty converted to pull the Eagles within 15-14.
Te'o gave the Eagles their first lead with a try in the 40th minute and AJ MacGinty's conversion put the Americans ahead 21-15 at half-time.
Canada pulled within 21-18 on O'Leary's penalty kick in the 46th minute after US hooker James Hilderbrand was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle on Phil Mack.
With Canada poised for a go-ahead try, Te'o intercepted an O'Leary pass and rambled 95 metres for a US try in the 52nd minute, MacGinty converting for a 28-18 Eagles lead.
Video replay wiped out what had originally been called a Canada try in the 63rd minute, Andrew Coe being found to have knocked on before going over the line.
But Canadian cap record holder Aaron Carpenter found the corner in the 70th minute and O'Leary's conversion pulled the hosts within 28-25.
After a US penalty with Canada inches from the line, the hosts opted for an O'Leary penalty kick that created the final margin.
MacGinty missed a drop goal in the 80th minute and O'Leary missed a penalty kick at the death to leave the match deadlocked.
Canada leads the all-time rivalry 38-17 with two drawn, but the Eagles are now unbeaten in six consecutive matches against Canada, including a 51-34 victory earlier this year on the way to winning the Americas Championship.
Tries: Van Der Merwe 2, Carpenter
Cons: O'Leary 2
Pens: O'Leary 3
For United States:
Tries: Civetta 2, Te'o 2
Cons: MacGinty 4
Yellow cards: James Hilderbrand (United States, 45; High tackle), Cam Dolan (United Sates, 59; collapsing a maul)
Canada: 15 Ciaran Hearn, 14 Andrew Coe, 13 DTH van Der Merwe (co-captain), 12 Connor Braid, 11 Taylor Paris, 10 Shane O'Leary, 9 Phil Mack, 8 Tyler Ardron, 7 Matt Heaton, 6 Admir Cejvanovic, 5 Evan Olmstead, 4 Brett Beukeboom (co-captain), 3 Jake Ilnicki, 2 Ray Barkwill, 1 Djustice Sears-Duru.
Replacements: 16 Benoit Piffero, 17 Anthony Luca, 18 Matt Tierney, 19 Kyle Baillie, 20 Aaron Carpenter, 21 Gordon McRorie, 22 Nick Blevins, 23 Dan Moor.
United States: 15 Ben Cima, 14 Mike Te'o, 13 Bryce Campbell, 12 Marcel Brache, 11 Matai Leuta, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Nate Augspurger, 8 Cam Dolan, 7 John Quill, 6 Todd Clever (captain), 5 Nick Civetta, 4 Ben Landry, 3 Paddy Ryan, 2 James Hilterbrand, 1 Tony Purpura.
Replacements: 16 Peter Malcolm, 17 Ben Tarr, 18 Dino Waldren, 19 Matthew Jensen, 20 David Tameilau, 21 Andrew Durutalo, 22 Shaun Davies, 23 Will Magie.
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Assistant referees: Andrew Brace (Ireland), Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
TMO: Sean Davey (England)