USA v Canada Stadium 2024

North American rivals the United States and Canada have played out an unexpected 16-16 tie in their rugby league international match in Las Vegas.

Played on a high school football field on a windy Friday night, both teams scored three tries apiece in a game marked by a glut of penalties.

The home side was in control for the majority of the first half but the visitors stepped up their game in the second forty to make a contest of it.

Trailing 14-10 as the match moved into the final quarter, Canadian five-eighth Blake Mahovic leveled the scores with a determined head down charge at the Hawks’ defenders from a few meters out. Jacob Bourne converted his try from the sidelines to give the Wolverines a slender 16-14 lead.

That score came at the end of relentless pressure by the Canadians who had strung together a series of sets that had the Americans backpedaling as they tried to hold their line against the Wolverines’ onslaught.

Inside the last five minutes, the Hawks were awarded several consecutive possessions. They took advantage of those opportunities to muscle the ball forward, only to fall agonizingly short of the try line as time wound down.

Then as the final whistle was about to blow, an American ballcarrier was tackled about 15 meters out from the try line and the ball popped out in the tackle. The US was awarded a scrum and then a penalty from the scrum and goalkicker Kyle Granby made no mistake with his conversion to end the game in a draw.

US head coach Sean Rutgerson says penalties against his side had his players on the back foot for a big chunk of the second half.

“It seemed like they were really holding us down a lot, and I was really disappointed with that,” he tells Rugby League Planet. “It’s hard to win a game when you’ve got that sort of stuff up against you, but I guess some of the penalties may have been warranted, and I’ll have to check the video.

“I’m really happy with the effort from the boys.”

However, Rutgerson says he’s dissatisfied that the game ended in a tie.

“It’s disappointing that the energy and the effort, the time and the cost for everyone, and the Canadians as well, to travel here, and it ends like that,” he says.

On the flipside, Canadian head coach Aaron Zimmerle saw the end result slightly differently.

“In terms of the character and the way that we played, it is a victory,” he tells RLP. “I walked off the field knowing that as the game grew on, they grew more into the things that we trained and worked on but they also showed that they were open and connected and can work hard, so at the end of the day it’s still a win.

“As a coach, I’m very satisfied with their play.”

And Zimmerle says the six again rule helped take the game to another level on the night.

“The game doesn’t stop and it’s not stagnated by whistle blown, kick it out and have to restart play,” he continues. “If someone isn’t perfect in their execution of the tackle, they’re long in the ruck, if they’re slightly not in line, then yeah, in Australia by the letter of the law, that’s a penalty.

“I think sometimes in emerging nation games they let those things slide just so they can get a game of football but then you don’t teach the players how to be disciplined in all the rule pieces. So, for the penalties to be like they were, and they went both ways, I don’t think they ruined the game.

“I actually think it lifted the level of what’s expected for both Canada and America if they’re going to go play the proper nations when it comes to rugby league.”

It is the USA’s first ever tie in an international and it’s Canada’s second. The Wolverines’ first draw was against Jamaica in 2015.

USA 16
David Washington, James Williams, Ryan Burroughs, Jason Martin, Kyle Granby, Ryan Bannerot, Peter Lupton, Malcom Webb, Mason McCrory, Tevita Bryce, Gunnar Johnson, Wes Piggins, Joe Eichner.
Interchanges: Matt Finnesy, Ethan Ferrick, Fatai Makavaha, Andre Whaley.

Tries: Burroughs (6), Martin (27), Granby (56)
Goals: McCrory 1/3, Granby 1/1

CANADA 16
Dillon Hamilton, Josh Michalik, Luke Toroca, Lee Keegel, Colton Carpenter, Blake Mahovic, Jacob Bourne, Dave Astley, Ben Stothers, Charles Curran, Jason Chuck, Jason Park, Scyler Dumas.
Interchanges: Kyle Yurkiw, Dan Martyn, Niko Andrianos, Danny Tupou

Tries: Carpenter (42), Dumas (47), Mahovic (64)
Goals: Bourne 2/3

Referee: Cody Kuxman (USA)

Half Time: 10-0

Brian is a strong and effective communicator with more than 30 years’ experience in broadcast and electronic media. He has been writing for Rugby League Planet since 2012 and is frequently the first reporter to break news stories about the sport. He has been our North American correspondent reporting on news in the US, Canada and Jamaica covering everything from league standings to strategy analysis to breaking news on key trades to editorials and colourful features on athletes. He is now writing about rugby league on a broader scale to cover developments around the globe. An accomplished storyteller, Brian started his career in Australian radio, before moving to the United States. He is an experienced podcast host and producer and is also a successful TV commentator having done play-by-play and analysis for ESPN, FOX Sports and the Rugby League European Federation (RLEF) among others. Brian has his own YouTube channel @brianlowe5567 where he posts his interviews for Rugby League Planet. Be sure to check it out and subscribe.