Will Percillier had 17 points as he captained Canada to a 44-33 win over the U.S. in the first leg of a two-game qualifier for the Junior World Trophy at Shawnigan Lake School on Tuesday evening.
The Mill Bay product and Brentwood College School graduate scored a pair of tries and kicked two conversions and a penalty goal as Canada jumped out to an early lead, then watched the U.S. surge ahead before going back in front down the final stretch.
Canada will carry an 11-point lead into the second game of the aggregate series, also at Shawnigan on Saturday at 5 p.m.
“It was important that we get off on a good foot and get confidence for the next game,” Percillier said after the game. “We knew they were going to be physical — the States always is — and we dealt with that pretty good at times and then we let them get to us at other times and they got some momentum, and they’re a hard team to stop once they get that. I think in the end, it was nice to see that the guys stuck in there, and even when we were down, we managed to get the lead again. It’s definitely a wakeup call, so we’ve got to bring our A-game for the next game.”
Canada went up 20-0 before the midway point of the first half on a try by Avery Oitoman, a penalty kick by Percillier, a try by David Richard that Percillier converted, and Percillier’s first try. The Americans got on the board with back-to-back tries of their own, but Percillier’s second score put Canada ahead 25-14 at the break.
Two quick tries in the second half gave the U.S. their first lead of the match, but the Canadians came back with two tries by Quinn Ngawati, the first of which was converted by Percillier, and a try by Gabriel Casey that Ngawati converted, while the U.S. added one more unconverted try.
According to Percillier, the Canadians weren’t too concerned when the Americans went up early in the second half.
“We knew why they were up: we let them in our end and they scored,” the captain said. “As soon as you give them a little bit of a chance they’re gonna take it. Not too worried, we just told ourselves we’ve got to get back to playing our game and not resort to playing their game. It’s not nice to go down, but we did well to come back.”
Percillier didn’t want to reveal too much about Canada’s game plan for Saturday, but indicated that his team planned to set the tone.
“Play more of our game, stuff that we know we’re good at,” he said. “I don’t think we showed that today. Play less of their game, more of our game.”
Canada will look to build on the 11-point advantage in the second game, with the aggregate winner earning a berth in the Junior World Trophy in Brazil next month. Percillier has represented Canada in the last two such tournaments, and is thrilled to be captain in his final opportunity.
“It’s a great honour,” he said. “I’ve been with the program for three years now, and to be given the nod to lead the side is a big honour.”
It’s been a busy few months for Percillier, who helped UBC to a national title last fall, earned his first senior men’s cap against Uruguay in February, and signed a three-year contract with Stade Français in the top French league in April. He would like nothing better now than to cap off his junior career with another appearance at the JWT.
“I’ll try not to drop the ball in my last year,” he said. “I’m excited for Saturday.”