By Brian Lowe, Date: 11/12/15 (Photo Credit Davey Wilson)
Just as it was for Jamaica in Game 2, the final matchup in the Firehouse Subs Rugby League World Cup Americas Region Qualifying series is a must-win for Canada.
Saturday in Jacksonville, Florida, is crunch day in the series as the final result in Game 3 will determine whether Canada or the USA will advance to the 2017 World Cup.
As reported by RugbyLeaguePlanet, a tie will be good enough for the US to qualify. Not so for the Wolverines though as it’s a case of win or they are done.
Wolverines head coach Aaron Zimmerle acknowledges his charges made things difficult for themselves in their first match against the Jamaicans by trying too hard at times, resulting in unforced errors, turnovers and squandered scoring opportunities.
That said, however, he contends it was Canada’s first game together as a new unit and just as the Jamaicans showed vast improvement with a game under their belt, he too is expecting his team to be a whole heck of a lot better come Saturday.
“I just want to be really positive,” said Zimmerle. “The boys showed great character to come back and get to that point at 18-all (in Game 2).
“We still had the chance to win the game. We had the last kick for a field goal, so even though we were patchy in the game, we found a way to almost win it.
“That said and done, the next game is America. We’ll look at our video.
“Players that hadn’t played together previously, like the Jacks boys and that, you could see late in the game when they got familiar with the players around them they were able to create opportunities and then others were able to capitalize off that.
“They’ll all be better for that now. They know what each other does.”
The Canadian players are quick to stress that last Tuesday night’s game was their first time together as a team and as co-captain Steve Piatek puts it, the first 40 minutes showed how obvious it was that they hadn’t played together as a unit before that match.
“We had guys from BC, guys from Australia, guys from England and guys from Ontario all come together and you could see we found our rhythm by the last 20.
“We’ve got the belief in ourselves to go all the way. We know the US are probably hungry for a win after we came out on the right side of the Colonial Cup, so we’re prepared for a big game on Saturday.”
Apart from the obvious desire to win, there is much more than that riding on the outcome for Canada, therefore so too the pressure to succeed will be more than on the home side.
The game’s governing body north of the border, Canada Rugby League Association (CRLA), recently elected a new board with a new focus and a new way of doing things and there are certain expectations from within that come with that.
This is Canada’s first crack at qualifying for the World Cup so heritage players and a heritage head coach have been drafted to bolster the national team’s stocks, along with their hopes and aspirations.
To a lesser extent, even though the Wolverines won the Colonial Cup for the second straight year earlier this season, North American bragging rights are also on the line. Well, after all, despite everything else it is also a rivalry game.
Add to that what’s at stake and it is easily the biggest game that these two countries have ever played against one another meaning the intensity, passion and sheer will to win will be evident from the opening kickoff until the final whistle blows.
The match will be broadcast live at https://www.ginicam.com/rugbyleague
Kickoff times by region:
Saturday, Dec 12, 3pm (ET)
Saturday, Dec 12, 12pm (PT)
Saturday, Dec 12, 8pm (UK)
Sunday, Dec 13, 7am (Sydney)
Sunday, Dec 13, 6am (Brisbane)