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Canada Hangs Tough With Ireland

Saturday May 23, 2009 in Canada National Team - Men

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(Flyhalf Dave Spicer tries to find some space. Alex Goff photo.)

May 23, 2009, Vancouver, BC – Ireland defeated Canada 25-6 before a greater-than-capacity crowd at UBC’s Thunderbird Stadium Saturday.

Alex Goff photos

Debutant flyhalf Ian Keatley looked secure with the ball and kicked well to earn a nod at man of the match. But it was certainly a close-run thing, with the score only 7-6 55 minutes in.

Canada started off the game exactly as they wanted to – establishing their physical reputation quickly, and bulling their way into Irish territory.

Their second reputation was for defense, and that they set as well, corralling Irelands early attempts to run, and giving up a kickable penalty that flyhalf Ian Keatley push wide.

The next time they had a penalty Ireland opted to kick for touch, and set up a maul from the ensuing lineout. The maul lumbered forward but Canada held firm. No. 8 Aaron Carpenter halted its forward progress and then a superb tackle from lock Mike Burak forced a penalty that lifted the pressure for the home side.

But it was all so little ball for Canada, so a not-straight in the lineout was a possession opportunity squandered. Still with 15 minutes gone it was 0-0. Canada got their first real chance, taking a dropped ball and working it up the right side.

But a mistake gave Ireland another shot and a high ball from flyhalf Keatley found neither Irish nor Canadian hands, bounced around and into the hands of flanker Niall Ronan. He moved it and with the Canadian defense scrambling center Darren Cave popped a nifty little pop kick to the corner where all wing Barry Murphy had to do was fall on it for the try. Keatley’s touchline conversion made it 7-0 at 18 minutes.

To add insult to injury, prop Scott Franklin had to leave the field for Canada, with Andrew Tiedemann coming on.

Right off the restart Canada showed their resilience, pummeling into the Irish defense and forcing a Peter Stringer knock-on that gave them a scrum well inside the Irish 22. However, over-anxiousness once again hurt them at a prime attacking opportunity, with flyhalfDave Spicer bobbling the pass. He didn’t knock it on, but Ireland pounced on the chance.

Once again Canada was good on their defense, and kept up handling Ireland, even prop Tony Buckley’s bull-in-a-china-shop run. In the end it was Canada who struck next. A seemingly innocuous penalty on the ten-meter line just near the sideline became a scoring opportunity as captain Pat Riordan call James Pritchard to line up the 45- meter attempt.

The fullback struck the ball sweetly and made it 7-3 with two minutes left in the first half.

No more scoring, and it is as advertised. Canada is handing supremely tough. Ireland will want to pick up the pace to tire Canada out and open up the scoring in the second period.

Canada picked up where they left off as the second half started, putting together their best series of continuity and forcing a penalty that Pritchard slotted over from 35 meters. 7-6 Ireland.

Moments later Canada earned another penalty. A loose take in the lineout saw Stringer all alone and manhandled by the Canada forwards. He held on, but with the ball on the halfway line the Canadians opted for a kick to touch. No try, but through the first 12 minutes of the second half Canada was playing all the rugby.

A couple of tactical subs in the forwards sparked the Irish a little bit and got them a penalty 30 meters out, which Keatley hit easily. 10-6 Ireland led at 58 minutes.

On the front foot with their forwards barreling onward, Ireland started taking the initiative. Canadian flanker Adam Kleeberger’s attempt to stop it all ended up with a yellow card, as he intentionally knock a Stringer pass to the ground. Ten minutes rest for the flanker, and Keatley whacks an easy 23-meter kick for a 13-6 lead.

Moments later a Canada counterattack brought the sellout crowd to their feet. DTH van der Merwe exploded through the Ireland line and his wide pass put Luke Tait in the clear. But Ireland scrambled, and then turned the ball over deep in their 22. Quick ball wide and a 6-on-1 overlap that Ireland appeared to mess up twice (Niall Ronan rumbling for 25 meters before finally passing off), but eventually center Ian Whitten took the pass from Cave and staggered over the line.

Keatley’s amazing, curving conversion made it 20-6 at 65 minutes and probably secured his Man of the Match honors.

Ireland smelled blood in the water then and hammered on with their pack. Going wide Ireland kept it simple – one or two passes and on toward the gain line. Finally, in the corner, Stringer popped it to prop Tony Buckley in the corner. 25-6 with nine minutes left.

Ireland looked to pop the champagne a little bit now that the game was in hand, working the slicker passing moves and getting a little cuter in the hopes of spreading the lead. Whitten had a wide open shot, but dropped the ball untouched.

Canada had one last surge, but couldn’t get that try that would have delighted the crowd

“We did some good things,” said Canada coach Kieran Crowley. “We held them close for about 60 minutes, it was anyone’s game. But we have to finish the games better.”

“We have to cut down on the penalties,” added Burak. “Obviously the yellow card hurt us because they scored a couple of times when Adam was in the bin. But it was more that when we were on attack we’d commit a penalty or we’d turn the ball over, and you can’t do that and hope to finish off scoring opportunities. If we finish those, it’s a different game.”

Ireland 25
Tries: Murphy, Whitten, Buckley
Convs: Keatley 2
Pens: Keatley 2

Canada 6
Pens: Pritchard 2

1. Kevin Tkachuk, 2. Pat Riordan (c), 3. Scott Franklin (Tiedemann @20), 4. Tyler Hotson (Tait @ 58), 5. Mike Burak, 6. Chauncey O-Toole (Dala @ 58), 7. Adam Kleeberger, 8. Aaron Carpenter (Sinclair @40), 9. Ed Fairhurst (Mack @65), 10. David Spicer, 11. DTH van der Merwe, 12. Ryan Smith, 13. Ciaran Hearn, 14. Dean Van Camp (Monro @ 54), 15. James Pritchard

16. Andrew Tiedemann, 17. Luke Tait, 18. Jebb Sinclair, 19. Nanyak Dala, 20, Sean Michael Stephen, 21. Phil Mack, 22. Ander Monro

YC: Kleeberger

1. Tom Court (Ross @54), 2. Rory Best (c), 3. Tony Buckley, 4. Bob Casey (Caldwell @54), 5. Mick O’Driscoll, 6. John Muldoon, 7. Niall Ronan, 8. Denis Leamy, 9. Peter Stringer (Redden @ 71), 10. Ian Keatley, 11. Ian Dowling, 12. Ian Whitten, 13. Darren Cave, 14. Barry Murphy, 15. Gavin Duffy

16. Sean Cronin, 17. Mike Ross , 18. Ryan Caldwell, 19. Donnacha Ryan, 20. Eoin Reddan, 21. Niall O’Connor, 22. Denis Hurley

Attendance 7,280

- Alex Goff © www.erugbynews.com



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