TORONTO, ON – Canada’s Men’s Team lost their International Test Match 19-17 to Scotland Saturday afternoon at BMO Field in downtown Toronto.
It was a very entertaining match for the 18,788 fans in attendance, as there were six lead changes, including four in a back-and-forth second-half.
Coming off a 34-25 loss to Japan last week, Kieran Crowley’s side played a much stronger all-around match and could very well have come away with the victory.
“I’m gutted actually for the guys, they really put it all-in” said Crowley. “I thought the Scottish experience in the first half manipulated a few decisions their way, but we hung in there tough.”
Scotland opened the scoring just two minutes in off a penalty kick from scrum-half Greig Laidlaw. The Scots, who controlled much of the possession in the opening 15 minutes, were unable to break through the Canadian defence to extend their lead.
That was crucial for the Canadians, as a strong run from Taylor Paris then brought Canada inside the Scottish 22-metre line, where James Pritchard’s penalty kick from 20 metres out evened the score at 3-3.
Moments after the restart, Canadian centre Ciaran Hearn took the ball at half, breaking through the Scottish line delivering a great backwards pop to a streaking Jeff Hassler whose momentum carried him over the Scottish tryline for the first try of the match.
“It’s always good to get one on the board early in front of the home fans and it was a bit of a spark for us,” said Hassler.
Pritchard’s conversion attempt was unsuccessful and Canada held an 8-3 lead.
Scotland would respond quickly, as Grant Gilchrist powered over the Canadian line for a try which was converted to give the visitors a 10-8 lead. Another penalty kick from Laidlaw made it 13-8 at the half.
A week after being outplayed by Japan in the second half, Canada was much better in the final 40 minutes against Scotland. Just two minutes in, Pritchard slotted home his second penalty of the match, bringing Canada within two points.
10 minutes later, Canada was awarded a penalty just outside the Scottish 22-metre line, where Pritchard converted another kick giving his team a one-point lead.
Pritchard then looked to have his fourth penalty of the match, but his kick squared off the post and Scotland regained possession, going the length of the pitch and connecting with a penalty kick of their own, to regain the lead at 16-14.
With both teams now electing to go for points, Pritchard connected on his next attempt, reclaiming the Canadians one-point lead with 10 minutes left in the match.
However, Scotland would respond just over a minute later with another penalty kick from Laidlaw to take back their two-point lead.
In the 75’ minute there was an incident that changed the flow of the game as Canada’s Jebb Sinclair was issued a red card while running with the ball for an illegal hit to the head of Scotland’s Ruaridh Jackson, who lay motionless on the pitch. Referee Mike Fraser had allowed play to continue, where Canada was awarded a penalty kick from just outside the Scottish 22-metre line. However, during the stoppage, the referee reviewed Sinclair’s hit, reversed the penalty and sent Sinclair off.
“Don’t know what you mean to do with your elbow in that situation when a guy gets his head on the wrong side,” said Crowley.
“He refereed how he saw it. I thought it was the wrong decision.”
With Canada down to 14 men, they were unable to generate anymore points and the visitors captured their first ever win on Canadian soil.
“I’m sure that call is what’s going to be talked about this week,” said Canadian Captain Tyler Ardron. “I don’t think it should have come down to that, we should have closed it out before that, it shouldn’t have made a difference. We’re going to be really disappointed.”
“It came down to the last few minutes and it didn’t go our way,” said Crowley, who was proud of his team’s second-half effort one week after a poor second-half against Japan cost them a victory.
Canada’s next game is Saturday in Sacramento, California against USA in 2014 Pacific Nations Cup action.