Emotion always plays a huge role in a Test match. In a lot of ways, the challenge fundamentally requires it. For us, it doesn’t get much more emotional than the United States vs. Canada.
This past weekend’s Americas Rugby Championship (ARC) game against the Canadians was, as always, an emotional contest. We played the game in my hometown of Sacramento and it would be my last match of the ARC campaign, as I was set to return to Cardiff for the rest of the PRO14 season with the Blues.
It’s always an honor to represent one’s country, but to do it in front of the people you care about most, against our biggest rival, makes it a little extra special. We knew the Canadians would be hurting from their World Cup qualifying defeat to Uruguay and could not be underestimated. This match is always a tough affair. So first and foremost, this needed to be a business trip.
We started off strongly, getting an early try from Nate Augspurger on a short-side snipe, and then Ryan Matyas brought it to 14-0 with a slicing run that finished off a lot of good work from the team.
In the second quarter, Canada put us under a lot of pressure and we were probably a little fortunate to go into half-time with the lead. In the locker room, we were pretty honest with ourselves and knew we had to do better. We needed to be more physical, win the gainline, and be more technically and tactically sound. We knew we had more in us.
Playing an international rugby game for your country involves serious emotional energy. But that emotion needs to be balanced with a cool head and controlled decision making. In the second half, playing into a challenging wind, we were able to find that balance. We produced two good tries — a strong effort from Hanco Germishuys and Ryan’s second of the day and our fourth — which secured a bonus point for us. The impact from our bench, as last week, was outstanding and gave us the lift we needed to finish strong. Our 29-10 victory was a full 23-man effort.
Test matches are about results, there is no escaping that fact. Winning is important and as competitors, we love that feeling. But what we are also chasing is improved performance, week-in and week-out, learning what we can from each contest, growing and developing. We understand that we are building towards the 2019 World Cup and while we are not looking past any team, we are measuring ourselves against what it’s going to take to be successful at the relentless competition, where world class is the standard.
The team now builds toward Chile, this Saturday at Titan Stadium [kick off 2 p.m. PST], before trips to Brazil, and Uruguay. Each of those countries will pose challenges that the team will not take lightly. There is still plenty of work to be done, but the attitude, work ethic and culture is strong. Players with more experience have already stepped up into leadership roles.
There is a great group of men representing the jersey and along with the coaches and other staff members, will look to continue the momentum for the rest of the tournament.