Canada got a useful win against Chile in Round 2 of the ARC but at times looked sloppy, and against the Americans a week later, despite some positives, it was a poor overall Canadian performance that showed Canada clearly playing second fiddle to their North American rivals. Canada managed to score a respectable five tries but once again a lack of kicking accuracy meant valuable points went begging for both penalties and conversions against the Americans. Meanwhile the Americans were much more effective and a complete lack of concentration in the opening ten minutes of the game meant that the Americans were able to build a healthy lead early on. Canada was then forced to play catch up rugby for the full eighty minutes and their composure, discipline and momentum suffered as a result. The win against Chile was useful in ensuring that Canada still remains third on the table, but even that looked labored at times. In short some players really stood out, but overall Canada seems to be struggling to emerge from the poor run of form as a team that has plagued them for the last three years now.
Canada vs Chile
Final Score – Canada 36/Chile 15
For the first twenty minutes of this match Canada looked decidedly sloppy. However, by the end of the first quarter they were managing to exert some consistent pressure on the Chileans which resulted in a yellow card for Chilean fly half Francisco Cruz. The resulting lack of personnel on the field for Chile enabled Canada to turn their dominance into points as winger Taylor Paris ran in his first of three consecutive tries. Canada were the more composed of the two sides and the back row unit of flankers Oliver Nott, Lucas Rumball and the outstanding number eight Admir Cejanovic were really starting to make their presence felt as they dominated Chile at the breakdowns and in the loose.
Taylor Paris’ third try in the opening ten minutes of the second half appeared to seal Chile’s fate. However, they came back fighting and produced an impressive run of play for the next fifteen minutes that saw them catch Canada off guard repeatedly especially on defence. However, order was restored by replacement centre George Barton as he scored a fine try sparked off by the always impressive replacement scrum half Phil Mack who always brings an added sense of urgency to Canada’s efforts especially on attack. Canada’s intensity through Mack continued with winger Dan Moor easily eluding a tired and disorganised Chilean defence.
It had been a good performance from Canada, against spirited but much weaker opposition. However, a win is a win and provided much-needed confidence to an otherwise beleaugered Canadian side. The impact of Phil Mack was plain to see from the minute he came on and regular readers of this blog know that we think he should be playing a much greater role in Canada’s fifteen a side game than incumbent scrum half Gordon McRorie who seems all too pedestrian for our tastes. However for us it was that back row trio that is rapidly becoming the shining light for Canada in this tournament. Cejanovic, Rumball and Nott all provide some real power and go forward ball as well as tackling everything in sight, with Cejanovic being the clear leader of the pack and a very bright prospect for Canada for the future. In Canada’s next fixture the point these three are making was further reinforced.
Canada vs USA
Final Score – Canada 34/USA 51
There were some positives in this match for Canada and it was definitely a highly entertaining contest between two traditional rivals. However, ultimately the USA looked like they were making much more progress than Canada in terms of their future development. Once again a shocking lapse in concentration by Canada in the opening five minutes which saw the USA score two tries in quick succession, would ultimately give the USA the edge they needed all match on the scoreboard forcing Canada to play catch up rugby for the full eighty minutes. As mentioned above the back row trio of Cejanovic, Rumball and Nott impressed yet again with Cejanovic in particular playing out of his skin and like a man possessed for Canada. Phil Mack was also impressive and it was his speed and intensity that kept Canada in the match albeit trailing 25-15 at the break.
However it was discipline and some shocking defence particularly on the fringes that led to Canada’s ultimate demise. While winger Taylor Paris may be a try scoring machine, scoring his second consecutive hat trick in this match, we can’t help feeling that Canada’s defence out wide is shaky at the best of times which ultimately diminishes the value added of Canada’s two impressive wingers Taylor Paris and Dan Moor. Furthermore once scrum half Phil Mack left the field in the second half, Canada lost a lot of its momentum and intensity in attack. Scrum half Gordon McRorie may be a useful points kicker but his game management is just too slow and conservative, making it relatively simple for opposition sides to unpick Canada’s relatively limited and easy to read game plan. Add to that little if any consistency in Canada’s lineouts and scrums despite the best efforts of the back row trio of Cejanovic, Rumball and Nott and Canada is still struggling with too many of the basics to enable it to put in a consistent match winning performance.
Coach Mark Anscombe clearly still has his work cut out for him, as Canada face a tough trip to Uruguay and Brazil for the last two rounds of this year’s Americas Rugby Championship. Canada still sit comfortably in third spot on the table but Uruguay at home will be hard to beat and let’s not forget that Brazil caused one of the big upsets in last year’s tournament by beating the USA. There is plenty of potential in this young Canadian side and once it starts to gel and Anscombe has a better understanding of his players, Canada should be much more competitive come next year’s edition of the Americas Rugby Championship. For now though it is likely to remain a work in progress and at least for this year continue to be a school of hard knocks at times.