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Late Lead Fritters Away for Canada

Wednesday Jun 10, 2009 in Canada National Team - Men

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(Justin Mensah-Coker on defense. Ian Muir photo.)

Glendale, Colo. - Canada met Ireland A point-for-point in the first half, shocking the favored Irish team and leading 16-13 at halftime in Wednesday’s Churchill Cup match at Infinity Park, but they couldn't hold it as Ireland scored twice late to win 30-19.

Ireland A exploded in the opening minutes for a try, but after that Canada settled down and calmly went about their business.

Wing James Pritchard toed ahead a poor Irish pass to exert some pressure and force a penalty, which flyhalf Ander Monro easily converted.

Moments later it was 6-5 Canada when Neil Best was dinged for a late hit on Monro. The flyhalf hit the long-range kick with comfort.

The chink in Canada’s armor was their lineout, where they lost ball badly twice in a row. On the second occasion, Ireland took a scrum in Canadian territory and sent a skip pass out to Fergus McFadden, and the outside center rumbled through a troubled Canada defense for the try. No conversion, so 10-6 Ireland A.

But Canada came right back. Scrumhalf Phil Mack started and finished the movement, going up high (for him) for a kick and knocking it back into the arms of Monro. The flyhalf started a counter-attack that almost ended with a try for Matt Evans, but the fullback was hauled down before the line. No matter, soon thereafter Mack faked a pass out wide and dove over for the try. Monro added the conversion and it was 13-10 Canada.

Niall O’Connor smacked a penalty to tie the game up, before extensive Canadian pressure led to a Monro drop goal and a 16-13 Canada lead.

With thunder and lightning threatening all around the stadium, the players tried to produce some of their own, but the clouds opened up and in the pelting rain both teams struggled to really open it up.

Ireland A made some changes, and Jonathan Sexton on as flyhalf. His kicking was a little more successful than O’Connor’s, especially for field position.

But it was kicks for goal that started it off, as Sexton slotted on to tie the game at 16-16 just as the first half started.

Both teams had some good scoring chances, and really it was Canada’s outside backs that held the game close. At 20 minutes Monro had a long-range shot at goal, and as he blinked away the raindrops the flyhalf was true to give his team the lead. 19-16.

Ireland came oh-so-close but were repeatedly denied by Canada. The Canadians themselves were right on the Irish line but a fumbled pass out of contact by DTH van der Merwe fell to ground and that was that.

Finally the killer blow came with eight minutes to go. Consistent pressure led to a scrum on the left-hand side. Ireland appeared to have driven over for the try, although the ball bumbled around and it’s possible No. 8 Chris Henry might have nudged the ball ahead with his knee before scoring. In the end, though, referee Matt Goddard called a penalty try for breaking binding, a call that seemed quite harsh and had Canada shaking their heads. It was a crucial call, as Sexton made the easy conversion putting his side ahead by four 23-19. Had the touchdown been allowed in the corner, Canada might have been down by just two, and would be a drop goal away from the lead.

Instead Canada had to chase the game and Ireland A were content to punt downfield and pressure. That tactic resulted in one more try. No. 8 Aaron Carpenter went up in the air for Canada, but the wet ball slithered through his hands and went loose. Ireland A pounced and eventually front-rower Denis Forgarty went over to finish Canada off 30-19.

“It was really tough, they are a quality international side,” said Ireland A captain Isaac Boss.

The score certainly flattered Ireland A, who could well have lost the game. Canada could feel hard-done by. The penalty try was highly arguable, and made a big difference.

Ireland A 30

Canada 19
Tries: Mack
Convs: Monro
Pens: Monro 3
DGs: Monro

- Alex Goff © www.erugbynews.com

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