U17 Rugby Falls to Wales

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(ISN) – Rugby Canada’s Men’s Under 17 Team’s second match of its UK tour ended in defeat on Wednesday evening, as an impressive and highly-talented Wales Schools U16 side put them to the sword 70-12 in Newport.

On a cold damp night in the Welsh Marches which threatened rain, sleet and snow, it was the home side that brought heat to the fixture from the off, scoring a quick try and keeping the scoreboard ticking over throughout the first-half, which ended 44-0 in favour of the home side.

This Welsh side is the team which represents the Principality in the U16 Four Nations and the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) says it views it as a development vehicle for future professional rugby players. With the players for this team drawn from Wales’ high-quality Regional Age-Grade Championship, Rugby Canada’s young athletes faced a number of players close to making that grade already. However, despite this, and the historic surroundings of one of rugby’s oldest grounds – Rodney Parade was opened in 1877 – the U17s never gave-up and showed plenty of grit in fighting back.

No more was this in evidence than when the team ran out for the second-half, full of the fighting spirit and team bond developing among this promising group of Canadian players. The team had obviously drawn the wagons and pulled together during the break and as the second 40 got underway they showed the Welsh crowd their rugby talent, with Brantford’s Mitchell Santilli quickly touching down for a well-worked try.

Buoyed by this, the young Canadians strung together some of their best phases of the game, and it wasn’t long before they shocked the hosts again, this time through a fantastic run from Peterborough native Thomas Chan for the team’s second five-pointer, with Giuseppe DuToit this time slotting the conversion to make it 44-12.

It was to prove the Canadians’ last score of the match, but they continued to show impressive defence to repel several Welsh attacks, before the home side again stepped up through the gears to add four second-half tries of their own to make it 70-12 at no side.

Speaking after the game, Coach Jim Delaney pointed to a number of positives to build on for the remainder of the tour, not least the team’s reaction to the first-half. “With the first-half score the boys were a little shell-shocked, but we left them to rise to the challenge and that’s exactly what they did. In the first 20 minutes of the second half, we scored two tries and could have scored two more. It’s good to see their development and it was great to see their response.”

Asked what had prompted the turnaround at the break, Delaney singled out the breakdown. “In the first-half, we were exposed in contact, we weren’t executing what we’d been practising. But once we started putting what the boys had learnt into practice, we were able to put Wales under pressure and prove that when we use those skills we can compete.

Delaney praised the speed and agility of the Welsh team, which he said was another step up in calibre from the Gloucester side Canada faced in the first game on tour and said that despite the scoreline, the team has a lot to be proud of. “We can be pretty happy with most of what happened once we talked at half-time and how we then challenged the Welsh. Adjustment to problem areas and issues is one of the things we as coaches are really looking for, and the second-half tonight was for me a success.”

Another plus was physicality, with Wales Assistant coach Euros Evans saying before the game that the Welsh were looking forward to playing Canada, in particular due to the physical challenge the Welsh believed they would provide, and according to Delaney, the Welsh coaches had confirmed it had been a real test for their side.

Both sides will now finalize their preparations for the RFU’s Wellington Festival, which kicks-off for Canada with a match against Belgium U17 on Sunday, April 8. “We’ll bounce back from this result and do very well,” Delaney said. “We’ve had two games now at this level, and the players are learning to react to things in front of them at this pace. The game is now slowing down for them as they grow accustomed to playing at this speed.

“Offensively we’re very confident, but defensively we lose shape after a couple of phases. We know we can eliminate this and better keep hold of the ball if we transfer what we learn in practice to game situations,” Delaney said.

The coach also revealed that the side is looking forward to welcoming back players who missed the Wales game with bumps and bruises, but said that the team could be without influential captain Oliver Nott, who left the field with a foot injury.

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