Canada and the USA tied 28-28 in Game one of their Rugby World Cup qualifier from Tim Hortons Field on Saturday afternoon.
Canada got two tries from DTH van der Merwe while Aaron Carpenter also went over for his 17th test try. Shane O'Leary kicked 13 points.
"If we're going to do better next week, we've got to be more clinical than we were today," head coach Mark Anscombe said. "If you want to win these games you've got to make better decisions that what we did out there today."
van der Merwe became Canada's all-time try-scoring leader as his brace pushed him past Winston Stanley's record that had stood since 2003.
"It's great but I don't like the accolades that go with it," van der Merwe said. "I'll look back at it when I'm older but right now I just want to do as much as I can to help my team."
Trailing 28-18 after 53 minutes, Anscombe's men fought back to tie things up at 28-28 as Carpenter's try got Canada back into the game before O'Leary's third penalty in the 78th minute tied the game.
"I'm pleased with the manner of coming back from ten down," Anscombe said. "That showed character but I am flat about a lot of other things."
But each side would each have a chance to win the game in the final two minutes. Aj MacGinty's drop goal sailed just wide before Canada managed to win a penalty just inside the USA half but O'Leary pushed his penalty right, leaving the two sides tied heading into next weekend's decisive encounter.
Canada had taken an early 7-0 lead as van der Merwe tied Stanley’s test try-scoring record in the seventh minute but the USA came roaring back two minutes later through Nick Civetta, scoring off of the ensuing kickoff after Connor Braid couldn’t collect the high ball.
However, van der Merwe would make history in the 18th minute as he picked the ball up from the back of a ruck and ran free to secure his 25th test try.
O’Leary’s penalty pushed Canada’s lead to 15-7 before the USA came back into life after tries from Civetta and Mike Te’o gave the visitors a 21-15 lead at half time.
"We should have gone to half time 15-7 up but we concede two tries, one from a scrum and one from a lineout, and that was poor to allow those tries," Anscombe said.
USA hooker James Hilderbrand was sin binned in the 45th yellow for a high tackle on Phil Mack — O’Leary adding a penalty from the infraction — but despite playing a man down, it was the USA who would take advantage as Te’o intercepted an O’Leary pass and ran 95m for his second try of the day and a 28-18 lead.
With the tie, Canada has still not beaten the USA since 2013 but maintains a 38-17-2 record all-time against the States.
Since the Rugby World Cup's inception in 1987, Canada has never missed a Rugby World Cup. Canada achieved its best result in 1991 when they reached the quarterfinals before being eliminated by New Zealand. USA, who has played in seven of the previous eight tournaments, has never advanced out of the pool stages.
The second leg takes place July 1 in San Diego with kickoff at 6pm ET/3pm PT LIVE on TSN.
Canada Team to Face USA (Name, club, hometown):
1. Djustice Sears-Duru – (Oakville Crusaders/Ontario Blues) Oakville, ON
2. Ray Barkwill – (Castaway Wanderers/Ontario Blues) Niagara Falls, ON
3. Jake Ilnicki – (Northampton/BC Bears) Williams Lake, BC
4. Brett Beukeboom, co-captain – (Cornish Pirates/Ontario Blues) Lindsay, ON
5. Evan Olmstead – (Newcastle Falcons/Prairie Wolf Pack) Vancouver, BC
6. Admir Cejvanovic – (Burnaby Lake RFC/BC Bears) Burnaby, BC
7. Matt Heaton – (Darlington Mowden Park/Atlantic Rock) Godmanchester, QC
8. Tyler Ardron – (Chiefs/Ontario Blues) Lakefield, ON
9. Phil Mack – (James Bay AA/BC Bears) Victoria, BC
10. Shane O’Leary – (Unattached) Cork, Ireland
11. Taylor Paris – (Castres/Ontario Blues) Barrie, ON
12. Connor Braid – (James Bay AA/BC Bears) Victoria, BC
13. DTH van Der Merwe, co-captain – (Newcastle Falcons) Victoria, BC
14. Andrew Coe – (UBC Thunderbirds/Ontario Blues) Toronto, ON
15 Ciaran Hearn – (London Irish/Atlantic Rock) Conception Bay South, NL
16. Benoit Piffero – (Blagnac Sporting Club/Atlantic Rock) Montreal, QC
17. Anthony Luca – (Burnaby Lake RFC/BC Bears) Burnaby, BC
18. Matt Tierney – (Section Paloise/Ontario Blues) Oakville, ON
19. Kyle Baillie – (London Scottish/Atlantic Rock) Summerside, PEI
20. Aaron Carpenter – (Doncaster Knights/Ontario Blues) Brantford, ON
21. Gordon McRorie – (UBC Old Boys Ravens/Prairie Wolf Pack) Calgary, AB
22. Nick Blevins – (Calgary Hornets/Prairie Wolf Pack) Calgary, AB
23. Dan Moor – (Balmy Beach RFC/Ontario Blues) Toronto, ON
Canada Coaching Staff:
Mark Anscombe – Head Coach
Graeme Moffat – Assistant Coach
Mike Shelley – Assistant Coach
Kelly Brown – Assistant Coach
Mark Winokur – Manager
Mallory White – Athletic Therapist
Alistair Wilson – Athletic Therapist
Dr. Steve Martin – Team Doctor
Aaron Takel – Performance Analyst
Michael Deasy – Strength & Conditioning Coach
Tries: DTH van der Merwe (2), Aaron Carpenter
Conversions: Shane O'leary (2)
Penalties: Shane O'Leary (3)
Tries: Nick Civetta (2), Mike Te'o (2)
Conversions: AJ MacGinty (4)
Canada’s June Series Schedule:
Canada 0-13 Georgia —Calgary Rugby Park
Canada 9-22 Romania — Ellerslie Rugby Park
Canada 28-28 USA — June 24 — Tim Horton’s Field
Canada vs. USA — July 1 — San Diego — 6pm ET/3pm PT