Updated with result of Tuesday's game
Canada, with a lineup that included Michael McCarthy of the Swilers club in St. John’s, suffered a tough 26-25 loss to Tonga Tuesday in its opening game at the 2019 World Rugby Junior World Trophy in São José dos Campos, Brazil.
Canada trailed 21-10 at halftime, but clawed its way back in the second half, beginning with a try by the 18-year-old McCarthy, his team’s starting hooker. The Canadians closed to within a point with another try in the waning moments of the contest, but failed to make the two-point conversion that would have provided a win.
The winner of the eight-team event will be promoted to play in the next World Rugby Under 20 Championship. The Canadians are in a pool that also includes Portugal, which they play Saturday, and Hong Kong (July 17). The other pool comprises Japan, Uruguay, Kenya and Brazil.
Half of Canada’s 26-man roster in Brazil, including the 6-1, 215-pound McCarthy, are underagers, making them eligible to play in the U20 ranks next season.
Despite his youth, this is not McCarthy’s first international experience. He was in Europe in March for games against Portugal and Spain for a test series and was part of the Canadian team that defeated the United States last month, a result that qualified Canada as the North American representative in Brazil.
Romania, now at the top tier, won the 2018 Junior World Trophy. Canada was seventh at the event, but has finished as runner-up in the competition twice, in 2013 and 2015.