Angus NA4 Report - May 27, 2006
Well we lost yesterday's game by a point. We had a shocking ref who really cost us the game (the final penalty count was something like 19-8). We played well enough to win but not as well as the previous Saturday. We scrummed well, especially considering their front row are all internationals.

Regardless of the loss, it was a great trip but can't wait to get home.

The July leg in Ohio will be exactly the same - two weeks and 3 games. I will see you all on Thursday and we can catch up then.

Cheers -James

Canada West Edges US Falcons
May 27, 2006

In a bruising, physical encounter, Canada West hung on beat the US Hawks by the slimmest of margins, 25-24, a win that keeps them in top place in the NA 4 tournament, as the first leg now comes to an end. The second leg will take place in Columbus, Ohio at the end of July.

Canada West came into this game against the Falcons missing some players due to injury, and with others carrying injuries, and no sooner had the game started than international wing Brodie Henderson went off with a sprained ankle. Then as the game progressed more Canada West players found themselves off the field being tended to, so that at one stage, having used all of its bench, hooker Mark Lawson ended up on the wing. At first he seemed unsure of what he should do in this unfamiliar position, but when beset by his opposite number big wing Brian Bernard, who had already scored two tries, Lawson put in the biggest tackle of the game to stop the big American in his tracks, lift him up in the air, and unceremoniously dump him on his back, to the roar of the 500 partisan Victoria fans.

"It was the most exciting substitution game I think I've ever been involved with in my life," said West coach Tony Medina following the game.

Canada West looked fairly poised in the first half coming away with a 22-14 lead into half-time, but in the second-half the team lost its structure allowing the Americans to come back into the game, and indeed nearly win it. In fact, had the Falcons' kicker Enrico Ferri, managed to kick the conversion to the final try from the touchline, the Americans would have managed the win and would have then recorded two wins over the two Canadian teams in the NA 4.

Canada West coach Tony Medina said before the match that if his team played with the kind of intensity it demonstrated in the final twenty minutes it had shown in its game against Canada East on Wednesday night, it would win the game. It didn't, and the Falcons took advantage to nearly claim the victory.

"You can only play as well as the other team will allow you," continued Medina. "They defended very well and there were some very big hits put in by both teams out there today. It makes for an interesting competition and when we go to Ohio, we can expect all of their international level players to come into the competition. No, this NA 4 is proving its worth. Anytime you can play rugby at this level is a benefit to all of these players."

Canada West opened the scoring when fullback Eric Wilson scythed thorough the Falcons back line to score after receiving a pass from Craig Culpan and after prop Garth Cooke had taken the ball up the centre of the field on a powerful run: Fairhurst converted: 7-0. Fairhurst increased the lead at 22 when he kicked a penalty when referee Bruce Kuklinsky caught the Falcons offside.

At 25 minutes Brian Barnard finished off a play begun by flanker Jarvis Albury when he broke up the middle on a 25 metre run. When the ball spun through hands, Barnard forced his way over in at the right corner: Enrico Ferri converted from the touch-line. 10-7.

At 31 minutes Barnard intercepted on the Canada West ten-metre line and romped the length of the field to score. Ferri converted: 14-10.

Canada West centre Craig Culpan scored a beauty at 39 minutes, to re-gain the lead, when he sliced through the heart of the Falcons mid-field, sidestepped the fullback and dove in. Fairhurst converted: 17-14.

Wing Tony Weller, who had replaced Henderson, scored at 43 minutes when he touched down in the corner after fullback Wilson opened the door for him. No conversion: 22-14 - half-time.

Fairhurst opened the second-half scoring with a penalty for offside at 45: 25-14. Then the Falcons began clawing their way back with a try by centre Vahafolau Esikia at 65 when he ran through a few tackles to score. Finally with the clock running down at 77, captain and hooker Patrick Bell belted over for a try wide out which Ferri had trouble converting, leaving the final score: 25-24.

"I don't think we played as well in this game as we did in the others," said Canada West captain Ed Fairhurst. "We played well in the first half, or maybe sixty minutes, and then let it slip away for the last ten. I think the Americans are getting stronger and it is a testament to how they have improved, by their showing today. It has been an interesting competition and will become even more interesting when it moves to Ohio."

"It was a bit disappointing really. They played a very good game as well as we did," said Falcons coach Jim Love. "It was a tough game and with both teams having to win it there was a lot of pressure. I thought our #8 Mark Aylor, captain Patrick Bell and wing Brian Bernard had good games today. The next round we'll come back stronger, and there will be a few more Eagles in the team."  

Angus NA4 Report - May 25, 2006
All is going really well here. We returned to our base at the University of British Columbia on Sunday afternoon, after a pool recovery session on Sunday morning. I am amazed at the impact our win has had, almost justifying the entire NA4 competition. The other US team, US Hawks, are also based at UBC and they appear to be a very down bunch after their massive loss. On Monday we trained in our units and as a team in the morning and had a good scrummaging session in the afternoon. Focus is now on tonights game against the Hawks and thankfully I have been rested. I am still trying to recover from Saturday's game! Most of Saturday's team has been rested but I still believe we have the edge over the Hawks. Yesterday morning we toured Vancouver and trained in the afternoon. It was nice to get away from rugby for a few hours and Vancouver is a really beautiful city. Unfortunately the weather has turned pretty nasty and it is raining almost 24-7......makes training a little more difficult. Tomorrow we head off to Victoria, which I hear is a spectacular part of Canada. From there we will prepare for our last game against Canada West, which will no doubt be our toughest game. Our best XV on performance will start that game. Well that's all the news at this stage and I will send you a quick email after tonight's game. -James

Angus NA4 Report - May 18, 2006
All is going well here. We all arrived late on Sunday night and it has been all rugby since then. We are training 2-3 times a day and the nice weather has made it all that more enjoyable. Our coach Jim Love (ex New Zealand Maori and Tonga national team coach) has focussed on putting our game plan together in modules and we will work on one or two modules during each training session. We have a good squad, including 4 players who are capped with the Eagles and many more who have played sevens, U19 or college All American. There are also some overseas born players like me with some provincial experience. Starting XV was named last night and I am pleased to say that I am starting at tighthead. Today we head off to Abbotsford where Saturday's game is being played, returning to Vancouver on Sunday. Hope all is well at home. -James

IRB Announces NA4 Competition
(DUBLIN) 26 April 2006 -- The International Rugby Board (IRB) today announced the schedule and format for the inaugural IRB North America 4 tournament that will kick-off in British Columbia on May 20. The competition will involve representative sides from Tier 2 Unions Canada and USA.

The IRB North America 4 is an exciting new cross-border international representative competition involving around 120 of the best locally-based players from Canada and the USA,” said IRB Head of Rugby Services Mark Egan. “It will provide the opportunity for future stars of the game to showcase their ability in a high-intensity, cross-border competition that will provide the perfect platform for players to push for a Test place.”

“The competition kicks-off on May 20 and will be spilt into two blocks of matches either side of the Churchill Cup with the first block being played in Canada and the second in the USA. Each of the five rounds will be played back-to-back at the same venue and the new competition will culminate with a Grand Final on July 29.”

“The IRB is committed to investing US $1 million to fund this regional tournament which is in addition to the US $1 million that is already being invested in both unions as part of the 3 year US $50 million global strategic investment programme that was launched last August,” said Egan.

The IRB global strategic investment programme involves a considerable number of high performance, tournament and infrastructure initiatives across the 17 Tier 1 and Tier 2 Unions that are all designed to increase the competitiveness of international rugby. The North America 4 tournament provides a clear pathway for players, coaches and Union management from domestic competitions such as the USA Super league and Rugby Canada Super League.

“The positioning of the IRB North America 4 alongside the Churchill Cup and IRB Rugby World Cup 2007 qualifiers in the rugby calendar ensures that both Tier 2 Unions will have unprecedented exposure to international rugby this year,” explained Egan.

The newly created teams are: USA Hawks, USA Falcons, Canada East and Canada West.

Round One sees USA Falcons take on Canada East while USA Hawks face Canada West on May 20. The matches will be played back-to-back at the Rotary Stadium, Abbotsford, British Columbia in what will be the first of five ‘double-header’ rounds before the final on July 29.

“With each round being played in a double-header format, the IRB North America 4 promises to deliver six exciting dates of international rugby in what should provide a spectacle for both players and supporters alike,” added Egan.

2006 IRB North America 4 Schedule
    Canadian Series (British Columbia)
    May 20
    USA Falcons v Canada East-Rotary Stadium, Abbotsford (1pm)
    USA Hawks v Canada West-Rotary Stadium, Abbotsford (3pm)

    May 24
    USA Falcons v USA Hawks-University of British Columbia, Vancouver (5.30pm)
    Canada East v Canada West-University of British Columbia, Vancouver (7.30pm)

    May 27
    USA Falcons v Canada West-Centennial Stadium, Victoria (1 pm)
    USA Hawks v Canada East-Centennial Stadium, Victoria (3 pm)

    United States Series (Ohio)
    July 22
    USA Falcons vs. Canada East-Ohio State University, Columbus (Time TBA)
    USA Hawks vs. Canada West-Ohio State University, Columbus (Time TBA)

    July 26
    USA Falcons vs. USA Hawks-Ohio State University, Columbus (Time TBA)
    Canada East vs. Canada West-Ohio State University, Columbus (Time TBA)

    July 29
    3rd place play-off-Ohio State University, Columbus (Time TBA)
    Championship final-Ohio State University, Columbus (Time TBA)

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