Canada Claim First Win at APC in Two Years 32-31 Over Tonga: FULL MATCH VIDEO
A much needed win for Canada as they head to the repechage in four weeks.
The roster had a few changes from previous matches. Nick Blevins and Doug Fraser paired up in the centres. JWR got the start on the wing, Lloyd and Sauder retained their spots in the back three. Mack and McRorie again slotted in to the halfback positions.
In the forwards the combination of Buydens, Barkwill and Keith started in the front row with Ciulini and Sheppard in the engine room. Baillie, Rumball and Campbell the loose forwards.
A minute into the match Canada established their scrum advantage with strong pressure coming from Buydens on the loosehead side. At 3 minutes they had scored a try from a lineout and maul, it was all forwards to this point for Canada and they had shown some precision to get the first score. McRorie hit the post on the conversion.
Canada's defensive line was showing more energy to start the match, firing off the line and making initial contact in the Tongan backfield. It was the Tongan side who looked nervous and were making the early errors.
The first bit of Canadian imprecision came at the 8 minute mark when they were threatening to score their second maul try but the maul became fractured and two players tried to truck and trailer their way across the line and were called for the infraction.
At 10 minutes Canada won another scrum penalty, the Canadian backs haven't even touched the ball at this point in the match. From the lineout it finally gets out to the backs and JWR on the wing gets the first run of the day and makes some decent yards. A couple of phases and Phil Mack draws a penalty as a Tongan player interferes with his path to the breakdown. McRorie hits the penalty and Canada are up 8-0 with 13 minutes gone.
At 15 minutes Canada again win the scrum penalty, the scrum dominance is driving Canada's attack right now. Off the phase work however Canada make their first handling error as they try to set up forward pods on attack but knock the ball forward.
Canada get their first penalty call against them when Kyle Baillie gives a shoulder to the Tongan runner who stays on the ground for a prolonged period of time. Tonga get their first visit inside the Canada 22 after a clever grubber through the line forces the Canadian defender to kick the ball out.
Tonga get their first try to end the first quarter, prolonged pressure from the forwards inside the 5 metres draws in the Canada defence, when the ball goes wide it's an easy try with two players unmarked. Conversion good, 8-7 to Canada.
At 24 minutes a poor defensive play by Canada, the Tongan #8 picks up at the base of a scrum and runs 50 metres to cross the line. Only a phenomenal effort by winger JWR prevents the try as he rolls the player over in the tackle as they cross the line and the ball is held up. The story of how the #8 got that far is more worrisome. Kyle Baillie at #7 stumbles as he attempts fulfill his openside role from the scrum, Gord McRorie gets run over in the tackle attempt, Nick Blevins stumbles as he reaches out to tackle, Sauder can't make up the distance but JWR gets the job done, kudos on that. The Canadian scrum wins the subsequent 5 metre contest and Canada can kick the ball out of danger. Cole Keith is winning his side of the battle today at tighthead.
Tonga take the lead at 29 minutes with a long range penalty kick. Outside of Canada's dominance in the set pieces they've shown very little prowess in loose play and it was from loose play they gave up the penalty. Tonga 10 - Canada 8.
Theo Sauder is the first back to show some spark as he crashes through a couple of tackles and offloads to Kainoa Lloyd who touches the ball down. McRorie misses the conversion Canada 13 - Tonga 8 with 8 minutes left to half.
Tonga storm right back with a try from broken play, they definitely have the advantage when the structure breaks down. It started from a chip kick that wasn't fielded by Canada, when Tonga got hold of it a 7s match broke out and Tonga were the winners. 17-13 for Tonga with 4 minutes till half.
Tonga scored another try just before half, from a lineout the ball goes wide where they have the advantage. Beautiful offloads, quick recycling and Canada's defence is left in tatters. The resolve of quick line speed and defensive pressure from the first 5 minutes is now a distant memory. They go into the half with Tonga leading 22-13.
Tonga start the 2nd half well and within the first minute slot a 50 metre drop goal through the posts. The fullback nails the ambitious kick from in front of the posts but almost exactly on the halfway line. Canada are very lackadaisical in defensive pressure and it gives opposing teams confidence to be ambitious in attack. Although doubtful we would see the same enterprise from Germany, Kenya or Hong Kong. 25-13 for Tonga.
At 42 minutes Tonga get another kick at goal from an aimless up and under from Sauder that put's his teammates offside for not retreating. Fortunately for Canada the attempt goes wide but very little counter attack threat from the Canadian back three to punish Tonga when they kick the ball away.
At 43 minutes Buydens gets a yellow card for pushing a Tongan player who is acting as a blocker, it's a weak yellow card and points out the fact that passive blocking is allowed in the game and even encouraged by the refereeing decisions. Buydens could have been more subtle in handling the situation but it's a poor call by the ref.
The Tongan kick goes wide, but the referee calls offside on Canada at the ensuing 22 metre drop out. The ref is becoming very pedantic now and Canada are getting punished. Barker comes in for the scrum while Buydens is sitting the yellow card, Luke Campbell comes off. Rumball makes a key steal off the ensuing breakdown and Canada get some breathing room.
Sheppard knocks the ball on from the ensuing lineout and Tonga get the scrum. At 51 minutes Tonga go ahead 28-13 after a lineout infraction by Canada, pulling down the jumper according to the referee.
Sauder gets another chance to counter attack from a Tongan kick, this time he decides to run but makes a speculative pass to Lloyd that goes forward. The communication between Sauder and Lloyd just isn't in sync.
Rumball gets another turnover at the breakdown and that gets Canada on attack, unfortunately it gets wasted. Mack quick taps and gains 10 metres but at the ensuing breakdown Barkwill tries to be scrum half and knocks the ball on while trying to pick it up.
Sauder trying to inject some attack on the kick returns but the offload gets dropped and Tonga get a scrum inside the Canada half. Buydens is back in and Canada's scrum returns to its dominance. Canada win the penalty.
At 57 minutes Lloyd finally gets on track, Sauder again providing the initial attacking thrust and then offloads to Lloyd who brushes off three tacklers to score. McRorie hits the conversion from a difficult angle, 28-20 for Tonga.
Canada botch the kickoff reception and immediately put themselves under pressure. At 60 minutes Blevins gets called for a high tackle and Tonga take the points, 31-20 for Tonga.
At 64 minutes Canada strike back, started when Rumball intercepts an offload and Sauder providing some attacking flair. At this point Rumball and Sauder have been the outstanding players for Canada in the forwards and backs respectively in loose play, the Canada scrum getting top honours. McRorie makes a break and offloads to Lloyd who has been running good support lines throughout the game, he scampers over for the try. The conversion is missed 31-25 for Tonga.
At 68 minutes Blevins milks a bit of a yellow card from the ref, the video replay doesn't show any obvious contact but the attempted tackle looked dangerous as the player led with his shoulder but Blevins ducks under and then holds his head on the ground. The yellow card would help Canada's cause and it looks like there may have been a swinging arm that glanced off Blevins' head and that would be enough.
Canada immediately call in the credit and maul in another try, the ref calls it a penalty try for Tonga trying to take down the maul. 32-31 now for Canada with still another 10 minutes left.
Tonga had a chance to win it at 72 minutes from a 30 metre penalty kick that went just wide. Canada play defence for the remainder of the match and hold on for the win. The players looked relieved to have a win, the first in a while and the first in two years at the APC tournament. It couldn't have come at a better time with the repechage on the horizon.
What are the take aways from the match? Rumball and Sauder were good and likely booked a spot at the repechage, Lloyd had his best game but there's stiff competition on the wing, it's wait and see if he'll make the travel squad. The front row dominated and Buydens and Keith looked the best pairing for Canada at the tournament. Barkwill is a shoe in, even at 38 there's no viable alternative at hooker on such short notice. The question is who will be his backup. Canada's defence is still a problem and the tackling form and defensive pressure are weak areas.
What will the repechage squad look like after this tournament. The front row will likely come out of this squad, the second row will be pros, Josh Larsen and Evan Olmstead, with Brett Beukeboom the third man. Tyler Ardron at #8, Heaton #7 and Baillie, Rumball and Campbell competing for loose forward spots. Phil Mack #9 and unless Parfrey makes a recovery in time McRorie seems to be the lead for #10. Will Shane O'Leary make an appearance, it's wait and see. DTH and Paris on the outside, Trainor and Hearn in the centres, Matt Evans possibly at the back although Sauder has made his case. Blevins likely in the squad and has JWR done enough to be considered. The repechage starting squad will be at least 50% different from the squad at this tournament.
FULL MATCH VIDEO
Canada’s Americas Pacific Challenge Roster:
1. Hubert Buydens – NOLA Gold/Prairie Wolf Pack (Saskatoon, SK)
2. Ray Barkwill – Seattle Seawolves/Ontario Blues (Niagara Falls, ON)
3. Cole Keith – James Bay AA/Atlantic Rock (Sussex, NB)
4. Paul Ciulini – Aurora Barbarians/Ontario Blues (Vaughan, ON)
5. Mike Sheppard – Stoney Creek Camels/Ontario Blues (Brampton, ON)
6. Kyle Baillie – Westshore RFC/Atlantic Rock (Summerside, PEI)
7. Lucas Rumball – Balmy Beach RFC/Ontario Blues (Mississauga, ON)
8. Luke Campbell – James Bay AA/BC Bears (Victoria, BC)
9. Phil Mack – Captain, Seattle Seawolves/BC Bears (Victoria, BC)
10. Gordon McRorie – Calgary Hornets/Prairie Wolf Pack (Calgary, AB)
11. Jordan Wilson-Ross – UBCOB Ravens/Atlantic Rock (Alliston, ON)
12. Nick Blevins – Calgary Hornets/Prairie Wolf Pack (Calgary, AB)
13. Doug Fraser – Castaway Wanderers/BC Bears (Ladysmith, BC)
14. Kainoa Lloyd – Mississauga Blues/Ontario Blues (Mississauga, ON)
15. Theo Sauder – UBC Thunderbirds (Vancouver, BC)
16. Eric Howard – NOLA Gold/Ontario Blues (Ottawa, ON)
17. Noah Barker – James Bay AA/BC Bears (Courtenay, BC)
18. Ryan Kotlewski – Westshore RFC/Prairie Wolf Pack (Calgary, AB)
19. Travis Larsen – James Bay AA/BC Bears (Parksville, BC)
20. Dustin Dobravsky – Castaway Wanderers/BC Bears (Hanover, Germany)
21. Brock Webster – Oshawa Vikings (Uxbridge, ON)
22. Guiseppe du Toit – UVIC Vikes/BC Bears (Maple Ridge, BC)
23. Brock Staller – Westshore RFC/BC Bears (Vancouver, BC)
Unavailable for selection:
Matt Heaton – Darlington Mowden Park/Atlantic Rock (Godmanchester, QC)
Clayton Meeres – James Bay AA/BC Bears (Chilliwack, BC)
Djustice Sears-Duru – Unattached/Ontario Blues (Oakville, ON)
Pat Parfrey – Swilers RFC/Atlantic Rock (St. John’s, NL)
Conor Keys – UVIC Vikes/Atlantic Rock (Stittsville, ON)
Kingsley Jones – Head Coach
Henry Paul – Defence Coach
Aaron Carpenter – Assistant Coach
Michael Deasy – S & C Coach
Calum Ramsay – Performance Analyst
Mallory White – Head Physiotherapist
Mike Cook – Physiotherapist
Dr. Lindsay Bradley – Team Physician
Alana Gattinger – Team Manager