By Brian Lowe, Date: 11/10/15
Photo credit: Carolyn Ritchie
“I know that the USARL will be a different beast for the second match and we will have to step up our performance if we want to win the game.” Those comments from Canada’s interim head coach Jamie Lester ahead of the second and deciding Colonial Cup match against the USA in Philadelphia.
The Canadians lead the series 1-0 behind their 36-28 victory over the USA Hawks in Game 1. A tie, or even a loss by no more than seven points, will be good enough for the Wolverines to clinch the series and retain the Cup, while the Americans will need to win by at least nine points to reclaim the trophy.
Originally, this year’s series was to have been a three-game set, and was to have included the 2017 Rugby League World Cup Qualifier in December, but the USARL had a change of mind preferring to keep the RLWCQ separate and the Canadians agreed to the change.
Canada made history in winning the series’ opener as it marked the first time ever they had posted a W on American soil. It was also the Wolverines’ second straight win against the US following on from their lopsided victory in Toronto last year and they are primed to go one step closer to a clean sweep in 2015.
There are some changes to the Wolverines’ roster for Game 2 and the coaching staff is confident they will make the team even better.
“I have complete faith in our squad and what they have been working towards and I’m excited to see them in action in Game 2,” said Lester.
“Some players have been unlucky to miss out on selection, but I like what the new players coming in can bring to the team. If the team plays to what we have been training towards, then I think we will be stronger overall.”
So what about the game plan? Will the Canadians tweak anything given their recent successes against their southern neighbors?
“There will be some subtle changes in our game plan, but nothing major,” commented Canada team manager Paul Buchanan.
“We identified some areas that need improvement from Game 1 and have made some adjustments to correct these as we will need to step up our performance against what will be a fired up USARL Hawks team.”
Despite the opening round loss, the US is confident of turning the tables on their archrivals and have even gone so far as to predict not just a win, but a pretty big one in the second rubber, although the Canucks seem unfazed by the prediction, at least publicly.
“The USA are under pressure to perform and come up with a win in Game 2,” continued Buchanan. “We don’t have that same pressure and are confident in the squad that we have, the hard work that they have put in and the adjustments that we have made and will leave our talk to our performance on the field.”
Rugby League in Canada appears to be on an upward trajectory, and not just on the field. The CRLA has ushered in a new era with its announcement this past week that it had elected a new Board with fresh enthusiasm and that confidence is rubbing off on the national team.
“After our historic win in Game 1 there is a great spirit and confidence, but also a steely resolve within the team knowing that the job is only half done and that we need to finish what we started with a win in Game 2,” added Buchanan.
“We have the most committed and determined group of players that I have seen during my four-year involvement with the Wolverines.”
As mentioned earlier, Jamie Lester will step aside as the interim coach after this match to make way for incoming head coach Aaron Zimmerle, who will be in charge for the RLWC Americas Region Qualifying tournament against the US and Jamaica.
“Logistically, it is impossible to have Aaron in charge for the Colonial Cup,” said Lester. “Aaron, Andy (Blackburn) and I have already established a strong working relationship and I am excited to work beside and learn from two experienced coaches. I am not sure what will happen beyond 2015 at this stage.”
Game 2 of the Colonial Cup series is scheduled to be played at A.A. Garthwaite Stadium in Conshohocken, PA, on Sunday, October 18.
And we encourage you to check back right here real soon for the continuation of our preview of Game 2 from the USA Hawks’ standpoint.