Despite a 27-25 defeat in the second game of the two-legged play-off against USA at Ellerslie Rugby Park in Edmonton, Canada have qualified for the World Rugby U20 Trophy 2017 after a 71-39 aggregate win.
Qualification was particularly pleasing given the agonising manner in which they missed out to the same opponent last year, a heart-breaking, last-minute 55-metre penalty from Junior All-American Ben Cima denying them a trip to Zimbabwe.
Following their success over the USA, Canada complete the eight-team line-up for this year's U20 Trophy, the sister tournament to the World Rugby U20 Championship and part of World Rugby’s pathway programme for age-grade rugby.
Uruguay qualify for the Trophy as hosts while Chile advance as the next best-placed side in the Sudamerica Rugby region. Japan, relegated from the U20 Championship following their bottom-place finish at the 2016 edition in Manchester, represent Asia alongside qualifiers Hong Kong.
The rest of the line-up is made up of African champions Namibia, European champions Portugal and Oceania Rugby U20 Trophy winners Fiji.
After winning the first match 46-12, Canada had taken a huge step towards qualification, knowing the USA had to beat them by 35 points to advance.
Canada got tries from Aidan McMullan, Dewald Kotze, James O'Neill and Cole Keith but were undone by a last-gasp Daemon Torres try.
"It was a tough fought game," Anton Ngongo said. "Obviously we didn't get the score that we wanted but we now know what the taste of defeat feels like and we'll make sure not to taste it again down in Uruguay."
USA struck first as Ruben de Haas’ penalty gave the visitors an early 3-0 lead but Canada came roaring back in the 19th minute as Keith charged over for a 7-3 lead. Canada extended their lead only four minutes later as McMullan scored a wonderful solo try to push the advantage to 12-5 before Will Kelly added another three points from the tee.
After George Barton and Harley Wheeler were both yellow carded in the 34th minute, USA got their first try through Christian Dyer but again Canada bounced back, hooker Kotze going over right before the half-time whistle for a 20-8 lead.
USA got off to a fast second half start as Peter Howard found his way over before O’Neill replied to push Canada’s lead to 25-15, but Torres stole the show in the latter stages, going over twice, in the 59th minute and again two minutes from time, to snatch a late victory
"Qualifying was our goal and now we need to keep on working hard,” McMullan said. “It’s a dream for all of our players so it’s going to be awesome.”
The World Rugby U20 Trophy 2017 will take place in Montevideo, Uruguay, from 29 August to 10 September.
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