Todd Clever's natural hat trick propelled the US past Canada 30-22 Saturday in Austin, a game that did not count in the Can-Am Series.
Made in the last half hour, the comeback win confirmed the impression of John Mitchell's fast start. The Eagles have scored eight tries in two Americas Rugby Championship matches, drawing with Argentina's third string and toppling a Maple Leaf lineup somewhat closer to Canada's best XV.
'Our style of football leads us to opportunities ... so scoring four tries is available to us on every occasion if we want it', the first-year coach was quoted in a press release.
The 8-point margin proved precisely the difference predicted by World Rugby's February 7 rankings, with the US placed 16th at 68.66 points and Canada 19th on 63.62; home-field advantage is adjudged a 3-point edge. Argentina was 5th, at 82.59. As of this morning, the US gained .2 points and Canada surrendered the same.
The Eagles trailed 12-10 at half and 15-10 with 30 minutes to go, playing an error-filled game, when a counterattack initiated by wing Kingsley McGowan and a subsequent injury stoppage triggered a turnaround. Though the play was called back, the US seemed to realize it could readily advance the ball and so played much of the next 20 minutes deep in the Canadian end.
Three times in eight minutes Clever scored from well-constructed lineout mauls. Alhough second came with the Maple Leafs shorthanded, Canada really had no answer for the US forwards.
Still, a broken-play try by center Duncan Maguire pulled the visitors to an uncomfortably close 27-22, before replacement halfback Niku Kruger's penalty goal closed out the game.
The 33-year-old Clever, whom Mitchell restored to the captaincy, becomes the seventh Eagle to score three times in a test. Blaine Scully did it last, against Japan in June 2014.
Never before have 14 US players earned their first international in a single game (save for America's first test in 1976). The previous record was Peter Thorburn's 11 in 2006, when USARFU awarded caps against Ireland 'A' in a Churchill Cup match.
In the curtain raiser, Ben Cima goaled from behind the halfway line with time up on the clock, lifting USA Under 20 to a 19-18 win over Canada and qualifying for America for World Rugby's second-division age-grade championship.
United States 30 Canada 22 (halftime: Canada 12-10)
Tries: Todd Clever (3), Chad London
Conversions: James Bird, Chad Krueger
Penalties: James Bird, Chad Krueger
Jake Anderson*; Luke Hume, Chad London, Lemoto Filikitonga* (Mike Garrity*), Kingsley McGowan*; James Bird* (JP Eloff*), Mike Te'o* (Niku Kruger); Eric Fry (James Hilterbrand*), Mike Sosene-Feagai* (Joe Taufete'e), Chris Baumann (Olive Kilifi), Brodie Orth*, Ben Landry* (Alec Gletzer*), Nate Brakeley*, Todd Clever (captain), David Tameilau*