EDMONTON - Considering they had been only together for four days, the players on Canada's national men's rugby team had to be pleased with their strong start to an important summer.
John Moonlight scored the lone try 20 minutes into the first half Saturday as Canada came away with a 16-9 victory over the United States in a match played in the pouring rain in Edmonton.
It was the first time the two teams had faced each other as part of the revamped Pacific Nations Cup (PNC), a tournament that also features the national teams of Japan, Fiji and Tonga.
It was also the first of three meetings between the North American rivals this summer. They will meet again in a home-and-home series in August that will serve as a qualifier for the 2015 World Cup.
"I thought we played some pretty good rugby in the first 25 minutes," said Canada head coach Kieran Crowley. "We kept the pressure on them. In the second half we gave the ball back to them a bit too much. The U.S. came back on us, but the defence held firm at the end."
It was a positive result for the Canadian side, which only came together as a unit during a four-day training and selection camp in Victoria last weekend.
"We haven't been together for very long but hopefully now we have a line in the sand as far as our performance," Crowley said. "We've got some time before we next take on Fiji and hopefully we can get in some good training now and come out a little more polished in our next game."
Canadian captain Aaron Carpenter said it was a very solid start to the summer for his squad.
"It's always good to get off with a win," he said. "It was a good start to this PNC tournament. We are building towards those two World Cup qualifiers and these guys are our opposition. The teams may change a bit during the summer but it’s always good to have the psychological advantage by getting the first win in."
American head coach Mike Tolkin said his team still obviously has a few things to work on.
"I'm disappointed," he said. "I thought we were on our heels a bit in the first half. We didn't apply enough pressure. You can't spot a team 10 points and look to fight back from there. We can't wait until the end of the game to apply the pressure."
Canada went up 3-0 early in the match on a penalty kick by Connor Braid and had a 10-0 lead at the 20-minute mark when the home side was able to get a tip on a line-out, allowing Moonlight to scamper in for the score.
After missing on an earlier attempt, American fullback Adam Siddall made good on a penalty kick to make it 10-3 at the half.
Siddall made two more kicks to open the second half and close the score to 10-9.
However, Canada was able to restore its cushion at the 30 minute mark of the second half as Braid was good on a penalty kick attempt. He added another one five minutes later to make it 16-9.
The Americans came very close to tying the game in the dying minutes, but the Canadian defenders were able to make a huge goal-line stand to secure the victory and sent the crowd of 3,500 home happy.
"They knew they had to score there and we just trusted our defence to get the job done," Carpenter said. "To keep a clean sheet as far as tries are concerned, we are pretty happy about that."
Notes: It was the first game for either national team since last November… Canada headed into Saturday's action as the world’s 14th ranked team, according to the International Rugby Board (IRB). The USA was listed in the 16th position… Canada has several games planned on home soil this summer including two more home games as part of the Pacific Nations Cup tournament. They will host Fiji on June 5 in Ottawa and then Tonga on June 8 in Kingston, Ont. Team Canada will also face Ireland on June 15 in Toronto before playing a pair of additional games against the Americans in a home-and home cross-border battle in August as part of the Rugby World Cup qualifying process. The first game of the total-point two-game set is on August 1 in Charleston, South Carolina. The home date for the Canadian team is August 24 in Toronto.