The USA has won the 2010 Atlantic Cup with a convincing 46-12 victory over Canada in Jacksonville.
In front of over 2,800 ecstatic fans, the Tomahawks triumphed by nine tries to two to follow up their win over Jamaica to take the spoils.
The Canadians, playing their second game in three days were outgunned the hosts building a commanding 24-0 half time lead, but the Wolverines – many of whom were playing only their fourth game – impressively maintained their shape and structure and had the satisfaction of posting the final points of a highly successful tournament.
Most Valuable Player in the competition, half back Damien O’Malveney bagged a hat-trick for the US, while teammates Nate Smith and Kenny Britt each scored doubles. Their two other tries were scored by Sione Taufa and Mike Cartwright.
Smith also landed six out of eight conversions, stand off Brent Shorten taking the final kick at goal.
In fine conditions at Hodges Stadium it took just three minutes for the home team to get on the board when Shorten sent O’Malveney into a gap from close range to dot down to the right of the posts.
Canada, who played with heart for the entire 80 minutes, managed to remain in contention for the next quarter of an hour before Hawaiian youngster Taufa finished off a raid down the right flank to score the USA‘s second try.
From that point on, the Tomahawks scored at regular intervals to tally five first half tries.
They kept their foot on the gas in the second period and Britt notched the first of his two tries only five minutes in when he was the beneficiary of another nicely timed pass from Shorten that put him into a gaping hole. Twelve minutes later, Britt got his second score from a terrific kick from the base of a scrum to extend the American lead to 36-0.
The main difference on the day was that the USA was able to complete its sets and almost every time the Tomahawks got into the red zone they came away with points.
Conversely, the Canadians – expertly led by Jamie Lester – worked themselves into strong attacking positions only to knock-on when they were looking to take advantage of the momentum gained.
It was just on the three quarter mark when O’Malveney again found himself on the end of a perfectly timed pass by Shorten that sent him over untouched, giving the Tomahawks a 42-0 lead.
“Unbelievable, unbelievable mate. You can’t explain the feeling,” said O’Malveney when asked about his hat-trick.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity. I can’t tell you how grateful I am. It’s a really good feeling.”
Things finally went Canada’s way in the 65th minute when full back Robin Legault picked off a US pass a few meters from his own line and raced 80 meters to get the score that brought his side deserved reward, Adam Moody adding the extras.
Prop Cartwright got the final score for the US when he broke a would-be tackle close in and crashed over the line.
Then in the dying minutes, Legault intercepted another American pass inside the US half, grubbered it through and won the foot race to the ball in the in-goal for a superb solo for Keiron Purtill’s men. He converted his own try to close out the scoring.
“It was a tough effort, the USA came out very strong and we just couldn’t compete with them throughout the match, but the boys stuck at it,” said Canadian captain Lester.
“It was disappointing with the scoreline, but what can I say, we’ve come a long way in one year.”
American second-rower Matt Clark was put on report by referee Phil Bentham for a dangerous tackle late in the game and was then given a yellow card inside the final minute after another infringement around the ruck.
In the end, the Tomahawks were deserved winners in retaining the Atlantic Cup that they won in 2009 and now look ahead to a Test against Ireland in Philadelphia in March 2011.
USA captain, hooker Apple Pope was named their player of the game, Robin Legault and Jermaine Wray won the Canadian and Jamaican players of the tournament honors respectively.
Photo credit: George Huffman