Kim Donaldson reviews an important rugby tournament that is taking place between arch rivals Canada and the USA
The opening game in Chula Vista, San Diego marked the 35th Can Am challenge between Canada and the USA in . The team who accumulates the most points over the two game series will claim the Can-Am Trophy. The second match is on April 1st falling four days later, the same amount of time teams have to recover in other international tournaments. This is the first test for both countries this year who looking to finalize rosters for the upcoming Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland this August.
The USA side is a relatively young team. Their most capped player, Stacey Bridges, has 26 tests under her belt. Conversely, 16 of Canada’s players participated in the 2014 World Cup at which Canada placed second. The American program is trying to bring their players up to speed with 11 athletes training full time out of the Chula Vista Elite Training Center, and others localized in centres across the country. The American program is a more formalized system of what Canadian athletes are doing. A third of Canada’s roster have placed themselves on the west coast to play in British Columbia’s Premier League. British Columbia is the only province that supports XVs rugby competition through the winter months. Athletes not only play against each other, but create opportunities to train together as well. Geographically larger countries face the challenge of transporting players to one location to train. Centralization can help foster this, building communication and trust, and has helped both teams performance since their respective fall tours.
Both Canada and the USA are known for their physicality, and Thursday’s game did not disappoint. The first half proved competitive with each team playing a faster paced offloading game, leading to back-to-back tries midway thought the first half. Play remained physical in tackles and at the breakdown before Carolyn McEwan brought Canada to a 10-5 lead at the half.
Canada showed their power and their experience in the second half, taking advantage of their one-woman overlap, due to USA’s yellow card. Veteran Canadian tight head prop Hilary Leith was impressed with the forward pack’s scrummaging, citing their technique and fitness as major contributing factors. Canada kept their momentum with incredibly impactful subs. Notably, Tyson Beukeboom, from the Aurora Barbarians (ON), scored a hat-trick in her 30 minutes on the field. The final result was 39-5 for Canada, the majority of points being scored in the second half by forwards.
Canada head coach François Ratier seemed pleased with the 39-5 result, acknowledging the strength of the scrum but noting slow start in the first half needing improvement. If Canada manages to win their second game, it will tie the overall American-Canadian competition at 18 games each.
The second match up of the two game series is April 1st at 6:00 ET/3:00 PT and can be seen on The Rugby Channel, or streamed on the USA Rugby Facebook page.
Kim Donaldson is a retired Canadian team front row player. She participated in two World Cups, accumulating 45 caps over her ten year career and has since turned her attention towards coaching. She coached the Concordia Stingers for three years helping them climb to a fourth place national ranking, and has worked with the Canada U20 Women for the past two years. Recently Kim has relocated to Victoria, BC, where she has landed with the University of Victoria Vikes.