TORONTO - Canada used a strong second half performance against the United States to prove it could be a contender at next month's rugby World Cup.
Canada's men's rugby team picked up a 28-22 win over the U.S. on Saturday in an exhibition tuneup for the upcoming World Cup tournament in New Zealand.
Canada was trailing 15-10 at halftime but tries from Phil Mackenzie of Oakville, Ont., and Aaron Carpenter of Brantford, Ont., helped it rally for victory.
"The performance wasn't how we would have liked it but any Test match is a challenge and a real battle and I was very pleased with how our guys stuck to it in the second half," said Canadian head coach Kieran Crowley.
The game, dubbed "The Battle at BMO Field," was played at the home of Toronto FC of Major League Soccer in front of 10,621 fans, most of them Canadian supporters, and was the first game in a home-and-home series involving the two countries.
"It's pretty great to see all the flags waving and seeing the people enjoying themselves," said Canadian captain Pat Riordan.
The World Cup begins next month in New Zealand. Canada opens against Tonga on Sept. 14.
It managed in a good start against the Americans on Saturday. Just five minutes in, flanker Jebb Sinclair of Fredericton nearly ran into the left corner but was ruled to have been pushed out of bounds before he was able to touch the ball down. Through some ensuing confusion, the Americans tried to quickly get the ball back in play but Canada took over possession and given a second chance, Sinclair made the most of it for Canada's first try with James Pritchard adding the convert.
After that, the Canadians had difficulty maintaining possession and barely threatened the U.S. side of the field. Carrying the bulk of the play, the Americans scored a penalty kick and then got a try from Takudzwa Ngwenya that was converted. The Americans were unable to convert on a subsequent try from Todd Clever.
"There were a lot of mistakes in the first half," said Crowley. "We kept giving the ball back to the U.S. and we had to make a heck of a lot of tackles. For the boys to come back the way they did in the second half, I'm pretty pleased with them."
Before the half was out, Canada was able to close the deficit to 15-10 when Pritchard converted a penalty kick.
Canada re-took the lead just three minutes into the second half. After the Americans were pinned into their own half, a pass back slipped through the hands of one of their players standing behind the goal-line and Mackenzie pounced on the loose ball for the try. Pritchard added the conversion, giving Canada a two point lead.
"I think we paid attention to the little things in the second half,” said Mackenzie, who was named man of the match. "We just cut out more of the simple errors we were making in the first half that killed us."
Pritchard added three more points to Canada's advantage with a successful penalty kick 15 minutes into the second half before Carpenter added Canada's second try of the half less than five minutes later. Pritchard failed to convert.
Clever made things close in the final few minutes with his second try of the afternoon for the U.S., but Pritchard added his third penalty kick of the afternoon not long after to provide some insurance for Canada.