As in their previous tournament outing against Belgium, the young Canadians started the match strongly, responding excellently to the coaching team’s challenge to bring increased physicality to their game. “It was very pleasing to see the breakdown work, an area we’ve focused on, it was outstanding,” Coach Jim Delaney told Rugby Canada after the match. “We were more physical than they were, our counter-rucking was excellent, and we were able to turnover a lot of their ball.”
This led to a 10-7 half-time lead for Canada thanks to a try by Shawnigan Lake’s Chris Miles and five points from the boot of club teammate Giuseppe DuToit. The second half remained tight, with both sides exhibiting strong defence. It took until the 73rd minute for the deadlock to be broken, with the English finally breaking the Canadian line for a second try.
Despite the late setback, the Canadians rallied and mounted several late attacks which threatened to turn the score back in their favour. “We were pressing all through those final minutes. Although England scored we didn’t give up or shut down like previous years. This time the boys really got stuck in and the way we finished showed many good signs, and we gave ourselves three or four good chances to win it at the end,” Delaney said.
Unfortunately, desperate English defence kept the Canadians at bay and prevented a famous victory. However, despite the disappointment of defeat, Delaney was full of praise for his team. “It has been a good day, but we are bitterly disappointed not to win. However, that was one of the best performances we have seen from a Canada team at this Festival,” he said. “It ranks alongside the victories over Wales in 2004, Scotland in 2006, and France in 2008. For me, we got everything out of it we were looking for. Overall it was a very good collective effort that we as coaches are proud of.”
With Canada’s third and final game at the Festival coming against France U16 on Friday, there is no time to dwell on the result, and Delaney called on his team to utilize the experience to move into that fixture on the right foot. “The boys deserved to win and are a bit disappointed, they know they should have won. But they now also understand what it takes to win at this level and can take with them from this game a lot of positives to build on.”
“We were so close to getting the result, but in the end it came down to not making better choices in pressure situations.” The coach said this would form the base of work ahead of the France test, particularly for players in key positions, such as the half-backs and hookers. “Now we’re talking about tactic tactics and how to control the game when we’re ahead. This is moving on to the next phase of development – the little things and decisions in pressure situations. We’re looking to get the guys to really focus on being clinical.”
Delaney said being at this stage with a game still to play means the team has already exceeded his expectations. “It’s the last bit of the game to work on. It’s encouraging for me it’s happened with France still to come, it’s the first time it’s happened here. We’ve progressed enormously and it’s immensely pleasing.”