It was a weekend of mixed fortunes for the four Americas test teams in operation. Argentina regained some confidence with a solid if somewhat shaky win over the Lelos, while Canada and the USA came to a dead heat after the first round of the World Cup Qualifiers. The result in Bucharest, meanwhile, emphasized that there is still much work to be done before Brazil begins to realise their potential.
1 – Djustice Sears-Duru (Canada) A big match from one of those who needed it. Still very young for a prop, Sears-Duru’s progress has been slowed somewhat this season but he produced the goods in Hamilton with several powerful runs into heavy traffic and a dominant performance in the scrum that gave Canada an attacking platform.
2 – Ray Barkwill (Canada) Another who was under pressure to make an impact and the veteran delivered with his best game for his country in many months. Accurate at the lineout, strong in the scrum, and particularly effective in the loose where he won multiple turnovers and slowed down the Eagles attack.
3 – Jake Ilnicki (Canada) Not a banner day for tightheads with none really jumping out in the loose but the Canadian anchor did was he was asked to do, hold the scrum. In that department he was a clear step above all other contenders. Should enjoy a return to the familiar confines of Torero Stadium on Saturday.
4 – Guido Petti (Argentina) Undersized against the beefy Georgian pack but with an engine to match most loose forwards his impact was telling. His ability to get up in the air quickly led to two lineout steals that stifled the Lelos attack.
5 – Nick Civetta (USA) Quietly growing into an automatic selection for the Eagles with his considerable lineout presence, but more importantly his work rate in the loose. Not the most powerful lock around but always moving and his support play earned him two tries against the Canucks.
6 – André Arruda (Brazil) The Tupis forwards were badly out-muscled by the Romanian juggernaut, but one who did not look overwhelmed was their strongest loose forward. ‘Buda’ started at No 8 and shifted to the flank later in the game, scoring Brazil’s only try with an excellent solo effort.
7 – Rodrigo Báez (Argentina) The least heralded of the flank trio that took the field for Argentina on Saturday put in arguably his best performance on a Pumas shirt. Linked effectively with ball in hand, made his tackles and was a solid performer in all facets of the game. Could play a larger role in the Rugby Championship pending the injury status of Tomás Lezana.
8 – Aaron Carpenter (Canada) Came on as a replacement but what an impact the old warhorse made in Hamilton. Brought direction to the Canadian attack and seized his moment with a crucial score late in the game to keep his team in the qualification hunt. Could well be playing his last test this coming Saturday.
9 – Martín Landajo (Argentina) Should have his traditional rival Tomas Cubelli back for the Rugby Championship, for now his experience has kept him above the rising talent that is Gonzalo Bertranou. Crisp service and control of the pack in challenging circumstances kept the Pumas on the front foot.
10 – Nicolás Sánchez (Argentina) Controlled the Pumas attack expertly as ever with his tactical kicking keeping the cover defense on their toes and his running game holding the inside. Knocked over 20 points with the boot to get his team back in the win column.
11 – Ramiro Moyano (Argentina) Three tries is always a good day at the office and makes the shifty runner an automatic selection in our team. Fans who were crying foul when he was overlooked for Matías Moroni in the first England test have been vindicated. The form outside back in Argentine rugby.
12 – Marcel Brache (USA) Doesn’t really seem best suited for inside center but is doing a job for the Eagles. Applies constant pressure on both sides of the ball and is deceivingly strong in contact with his long upper body able to stretch through for the offload. Created two scores for the USA, with his kick-chase catching Canada completely unawares.
13 – DTH van der Merwe (Canada) Moved to the midfield for the first time in four years – five at test level – and the gamble paid off in spades. Tortured the Eagles defense with footwork and vision en route to a brace of tries. He will be a marked man in San Diego.
14 – Mike Te’o (USA) A pair of tries for the twinkle-toed assassin who despite being an obvious threat still manages to find himself with room to maneuver. Will he play wing this weekend, or his preferred spot of fullback? Wherever he is, Canada would be best to keep him under wraps.
15 – Joaquín Tuculet (Argentina) In a rich vein of form after a somewhat lethargic year in 2016. Choosing his options beautifully and his ability to see space is back to its best. That he is keeping the hugely promising Emiliano Boffelli on the wing his a testament to his impact.