SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Canada played to expectation up until halftime. After that the game belonged to the upstart Americans.
Brett Thompson scored a try in the 68th minute and Chris Wyles got a successful conversion to lead the United States to a 38-35 comeback win over Canada on Saturday in a Pacific Nations Cup men's rugby match at Bonney Field.
It was the first time the U.S. had beaten Canada since 2009.
Canada, which led by 10 at halftime, tried in desperation to get a try in the last two minutes of the contest, but the U.S. defence met them at every turn.
"I think we were doing well up until then, but then we started playing poorly," said Canada's coach Kiernan Crowley. "We didn't make any tackles and you can't afford to do that and we can't afford to give away the amount of penalties that we gave away. It was just a pretty poor performance by us."
Harry Jones led Canada with two tries, while Aaron Carpenter, James Pritchard and Ciaran Hearn each scored one. Pritchard added four conversions.
Blaine Scully led the Americans with two tries. Danny Barrett, Wyles and Thompson scored the others. The U.S. made three conversions and Wyles had four off of penalties.
The U.S. jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the first half with a penalty kick from Wyles, and he added another moments later to make it 6-0 when Canadian scrum half Phil Mack was issued a yellow card.
But Canada came back to lead 7-6 on a try from Jones and a conversion from Pritchard. Canada scored twice before the end of the first half and led with a 28-18 margin.
Carpenter drove over the line with a powerful pick-and-go to bring the game to 18-14 before Pritchard dove on a DTH van der Merwe chip kick for Canada's second score before halftime.
"They were scoring off our mistakes," said U.S. centre Folau Niua. "They attacked us really well on turnovers. But what I like is that we didn't panic. Our captain gave us a few words and that was to play together."
Canada picked up where it left off, striking early on Jones' second try of the night for a 35-18 lead at the 43rd minute of the second half.
The Americans mounted their comeback by scoring the next 10 points before retaking the lead.
Both teams played with intensity around the goal-line in the last two minutes of the match. But it was the U.S. defence that conquered the moment, which ended with Scully recovering a turnover and Niua kicking the ball out of play to end Canada's effort.
"We weren't clinical enough, it's as simple as that," said Pritchard. "We gave away too much ball, weren't strong in the tackle areas and our tackling was weak. There was a second-place finish in the PNC up-for-grabs and there were times throughout the game that we could have put them away and in front of their home crowd they fought back."
Attendance at Bonney Field was sold out at 7,804 spectators.