TORONTO – The hot boot of Italy fly-half Kris Burton was instrumental in Canada’s downfall as the Italians walked away with a 25 – 16 victory at Toronto’s BMO Field Friday night.
It was the Canadians second international rugby game at the stadium and first loss there. Canada defeated the U.S.A. in their BMO debut in 2011.
Played in front of 12,220 fans, Canada took an early lead in the game and was 13-9 ahead at half-time. But the dominant Italian scrum handcuffed the Canadians in the second half.
Burton kicked 20 of his team’s 25 points, missing only one kick on the night. Canada fullback James Pritchard was also accurate, but had fewer chances at goal.
Pritchard did manage to kick 11 points on four shots at goal, which put him into second on Canada’s list of all time points-scorers. Only current manager Gareth Rees has more points.
Playing a more expansive game early on, Canada was stymied by Italy in the second half.
“Italy to us is a team that is very strong up front and very strong in the contact area,” stated Canada head coach Kieran Crowley. “We played into their hands by having one off runners a lot of times. That got them into the game.
“It was pretty disappointing from our perspective. We didn’t execute what we went out to do.”
“From our point of view it was a good win,” added Italy head coach Jacque Brunel. “Canada is a tough team and they showed the strong spirit they had at the World Cup and against the U.S.A. last week. We knew it would be a difficult game, so we are happy with the result.”
Canada started the match brightly, disrupting Italy’s throw on the first line out of the match. They spun the ball wide and earned a penalty, which saw them take an early 3-0 lead.
Italy replied with a penalty soon after to level the score at 3 apiece.
A turning point for Canada was the loss of prop Hubert Buydens in the 17th minute with an ankle injury.
Both sides traded penalty goals before Pritchard took a mark in his own 22m off an Italian kick and launched a towering bomb. The Italian scrum-half Tito Tebaldi couldn’t hold on to it and Canadian winger Conor Tranior scooped on the loose ball and ran it in for a try under the posts to make it 13-6 Canada.
Burton would add one more penalty to make it 13-9 at the break.
Italy struck first after the break, with Burton punishing the Canadians for a ruck infringement to reduce the lead to just one point, 13-12.
Canada was again penalized for a ruck infringement in the 50th minute and the resulting kick for touch gave Italy a lineout just 10 metres out from the Canadian line. Italy perfectly executed a driving maul off the line out to score their only try of the match and take the lead for the first time. Burton converted the try to take the score to 19-13.
Off the resulting kick-off Italy were penalized for obstruction and Pritchard was successful with the three points, closing the gap to 19-16. That was as close as the Canadians would come.
Italy won a scrum penalty right in front of Canada’s post and Burton made no mistake, extending the lead to 22-16.
Italy’s scrum dominance continued to earn them penalties. Burton extended the score to 25-16 with less than eight minutes remaining.
Canada finished the match with a strong surge on the Italian line, however the Azzurri’s defence held strong to preserve their nine point lead and 12th spot in the official IRB world rankings.
Canada next face Georgia in Burnaby, B.C., on June 23.