Members of the Canadian team celebrate with the trophy after winning against the USA in the final match of the HSBC 7s World Rugby Series tournament held at the National Stadium in Singapore, 16 April 2017. EPA

SINGAPORE: Canada scored a try less than two minutes from the end after squandering a 19-0 lead to beat the United States 26-19 in the first all-American final at the World Series Sevens in Singapore on Sunday.

The two North American neighbors pulled off a string of upsets over the sport’s traditional powerhouses to set up an unlikely final in the sweltering humidity of Southeast Asia that was as thrilling as it was unexpected.

Canada, who had never won a tournament on the global World Series circuit, beat New Zealand and England to reach the final then raced out to a 19-0 lead inside the first five minutes of the final.

The U.S., whose only title was at London in 2015, also defied the odds to reach the championship decider, beating the Olympic champions Fiji then Australia and almost pulled off another shock in the final.

Perry Baker, who was briefly signed by the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, has become one of the stars of the series. He scored two runaway tries while Stephen Tomasin also crashed over as the US tied the game at 19-19 before Lucas Hammond sealed Canada’s win with a try at the end.

“We showed what we can do today, we beat three of the five top teams,” Canada captain John Moonlight told The Associated Press. “We showed that we can be here and do this stuff.

“Beating the U.S. is always special and the fact we did here in a final is awesome. It just shows that Canadian and North American rugby is really on the rise.”

Canada and the U.S. have struggled to compete at the highest level in the traditional 15-a-side version of the game but have made big inroads in the shorter and faster sevens.

Sevens Rugby was included for the first time at last year’s Rio Olympics.

U.S. head coach Mike Friday told the AP that while the first all-North American final was a watershed moment for the sport, a lot more had to be done to recruit talented athletes before either country really dominated the sport.

“This did put things in a different perspective,” Friday said. “There’s a lot of work to be done. In both countries it’s played in small pockets and it’s not the national game in either.” --AP

169 reads