McDermott leads USA Hawks to World Cup 2017

The USA have booked their place at the Rugby League World Cup 2017, with a stirring win over a brave Canada team in Jacksonville, Florida, at the weekend.

The Hawks, coached by Leeds Rhinos head coach Brian McDermott, won the game 34-24, in what was a testing and tight encounter.

McDermott’s influence was on the result too, with the coach switching Los Angeles-born centre Danny Howard from the threequarter line to the second row.

He also moved Ryan Burroughs to full back when Corey Makelim was sent off for dissent just after the half hour, and Burroughs’s contributions from the back were superb.

The Canada Wolverines led 18-14 at half-time, with some fine individual displays from their players.

Hooker Ryley Jacks notched three tries for the Wolverines, despite battling against injury, but the Canadians could not force a victory.

“The performance was right up there in terms of courage and determination,” said McDermott.

“It wasn’t the flashest performance ever, there were one or two things we needed to be better at, but after having a man sent off at the back end of the first half to then get over a very competitive Canada just shows how much determination and desire the players had.

“I’m immensely proud, we qualified for the World Cup which was the first objective but it’s been a really enjoyable camp for the last two weeks and the players have given absolutely everything.

“Canada are a good team and we were worried at 18-all. They’ve already beaten America twice this year and we were under no illusions how good they were going to be. The whole second half was a real worrying time and they deserve a lot of credit as well.”

USA front rower MArk Offerdahl felt that the game had been a real battle, and he was proud of the efforts of the Hawks, who for much of the game had to play a man down, following Makelim’s dismissal.

“That was the toughest game I’ve ever played,” he said.

“To play 50 minutes with 12 men, it was a ridiculous effort from the boys. If we could kick goals it might have been a little bit easier for us! I’m so proud of them, I’ve never been involved in anything like that and now we’ve got 2017 to plan for.

“I put the victory down to the work we’ve done in the week and the game-plan we had. At times we went away from it and that’s when we started to concede points but when we went back to it everything worked out.

“We had to dig in – there were forwards playing more minutes than they are used to and wingers having 20 or so scoots for the game.”

Canada coach Aaron Zimmerle credited the Americans for their spirit and resilience.

“There were periods in the game where it was our opportunity to take control of the match but credit to America they really stood up,” he said.

“Some of their go-to players were able to pull out the big plays when needed, they capitalized well late when we were trying to force the issue and made an error.

“But, as this whole tournament has showed, every time we’re down and out, we find a way to claw back into the game.”

Canada co-captain Piatek hailed the Americans, but also the hard work of his team-mates.

“I would like to congratulate the USA for their victory,” he said.

“We worked very hard and to even be involved in the World Cup qualifiers themselves was a sign of how far we have come.

“We have four years now to take the sport in Canada to new levels and we’ll be ready to try to qualify again.”

USA 34 – 24 Canada

USA

Corey Makelim, Taylor Howden, Taylor Alley, Ryan Burroughs, Roman Lowrey, Rich Henson, Matt Walsh, Nick Newlin, Kristian Freed, Mark Offerdahl, Danny Howard, Casey Clark, Steve Howard

Interchange: John Purnell, Andrew Kneisly, Sam Carson, Luke Barron

Tries: Alley (2, 53), Howden (9, 44), Howard (36, 58, 79), Burroughs (63)

Goals: Kristian Freed 0/2, Taylor Howden 1/4, Matt Walsh 0/1, Mark Offerdahl 0/1

Sent off: Makelim (32 – dissent)

CANADA

Robin Legault, Billy Gemmell, Jonathan Cregg, Rick Schouten, Adam Timler, Ryley Jacks, Steve Piatek, Louis Robinson, Rhys Jacks, Tom Dempsey, Christian Miller, Steve Bouchard, James Kelly

Interchange: Matt Wyles, Enoch Wamalwa, Daniel Blasco-Morris, Alex Boyd

Tries: Jamie Kelly (19), Ryley Jacks (32, 40, 66)

Goals: Steve Piatek 4/4

Half time: 14-18

Penalty count: 6-8

Referee: Robert Hicks (England)

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