Hurricane Irene notwithstanding, the USA Tomahawks extended their unbeaten run against Canada to 11 straight, but in doing so had to overcome cyclonic conditions as well as the opposition. And what was perhaps even more remarkable about the result was that it was posted by what was largely a rookie US team - there were nine debutants in the gameday 17-man lineup.
As the American National Rugby League coaching staff indicated in the lead up to the game, the Colonial Cup series was always going to be about experimenting with new players and different combinations, at least as far as the Tomahawks are concerned. “We are working through a selection process toward the Rugby League World Cup Qualifiers in October,” stand-in US coach David Niu told us in the week prior to the match. He said the first home international was, “an opportunity to develop some basic team systems and familiarize everyone with the team culture.”
What was pleasing from the coaches’ perspective was that all nine players who made their test debuts had a hand in the win. Halfback Charlie Rizzo was tireless around the ruck, center Fitz-James Adams bagged a try, winger and goal-kicker Michael Garvey booted goals in less than ideal conditions, while five-eighth Leslie Alovili and utility back Josh Rice caused headaches for Canada all afternoon long. Center Ian Elliott, wing Alejandro Valentin and forwards Justin Ripley and Touanga Talakai also contributed to the final result with sterling efforts in the wet, slippery and windy conditions. On top of the contributions from the newbies, captain Apple Pope, Sean Taylor and Salesi Tongamoa also turned in solid games to round out the USA’s day.
Although the completion rates weren’t brilliant and the missed tackle counts were higher than either team would consider acceptable, and that was due more to the atrocious weather than anything else, the fact that the Tomahawks still managed to score three tries and keep their own line intact in the process is encouraging for the USA’s RLWCQ mission. To a large extent they executed their game plan and also tagged some talent which bodes well for the future.
And by the way, the win improved the Tomahawks’ all-time win-loss record to 23-15.