Canada and the U.S. squared off in three U18 rugby matches at Brentwood College School between July 7 and 14. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Canada and the U.S. squared off in three U18 rugby matches at Brentwood College School between July 7 and 14. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Canada narrows gap with U.S. in series final

Mill Bay’s Breen pleased with Canada’s growth over three games

The third game of Canada’s U18 rugby Summer Series against the U.S. at Brentwood College School was by far the closest, but still didn’t end quite the way Canada wanted.

The Canadians held a late 43-39 lead after a successful penalty goal, but couldn’t make it stand up, and the Americans added a converted try to go up 46-43 and held on until the final whistle.

The previous two games had been won by the U.S. 24-7 and 27-7.

“It was great to play against the U.S. in such a match,” said Mill Bay’s Ciaran Breen, a recent graduate of Shawnigan Lake School. “It was obviously a thriller. I thought there was an exceptional amount of skill on display on both sides.”

Momentum switched hands a few times during Sunday’s match, Breen commented, but it was the Americans who held the upper hand down the stretch.

“They managed to keep us under the pump until the very last minute,” he said.

The outcome notwithstanding, Breen felt the U18 camp and the three matches against the U.S. were beneficial for the Canadian program.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the passion and pride the Canadian players played with,” he said.

There were seven B.C. players on the team, and Breen knew a couple of Ontario players from games he played with Canada in San Diego late last year, but most were strangers prior to last week’s camp.

“There were a bunch I didn’t know,” Breen commented. “But the camp gave me a chance to get to know them.”

It took the team time to gel, but after the second loss, the players had a talk and found something to buy into: brotherhood.

“That kept us grounded in the game,” Breen related. “We played together and we lost together, but we did it all as brothers. It was great to see how we clicked over that week.”

Breen played XVs for Canada in San Diego and Phoenix late last year, but most of his national team experience has come in rugby sevens, including wearing the maple leaf at the World School Sevens in New Zealand last year. He may get an opportunity to do that again, if his new team in France will let him.

Earlier this year, Breen signed a contract with Biarritz Olympique in Rugby Pro D2, the second division of French professional rugby, where he will play from August to May. An offer to play for UBC remains on the table, but he took the opportunity to play pro when it came up. He could come back to UBC next year, or go to school in France instead if things work out at Biarritz.

“Your body can only play rugby so long, but school is always there,” he said. “It will all depend on how the year goes.”