Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Canada defeat Portugal 23-20

On Saturday in Lisbon, Portugal Canada went head-to-head with the 10th best European test side, Portugal. Canada entered the match below full strength as coach Kieran Crowley showed good will to European clubs in releasing some first choice players in an effort to obtain their services when need be ahead of Rugby World Cup 2011. Portugal fielded a strong team and were coming off a win by Rugby World Cup 2011 qualifiers and Africa's second best team for more than a decade, Namibia. Canada, in contrast, were coming off a loss to Georgia in Tblissi in which the North Americans traditional strength in the forwards was taken away from them as the emerging power from the former Soviet Union showed just how good they really are.

Portugal vs Canada was therefore a unique chance for both sides with both wanting no less than a win. The continued growth of global rugby was on show again as 8,000 Portuguese fans attended the match at the Universidade de Lisboa. The Canadians got off to a good start with scrumhalf Sean White picking up and diving over to score an early try. Fullback, James Prichard who went on to score 18 points, was successful with his conversion attempt which gave Canada a 7-0 lead after only 4 minutes. Canada found themselves leading 12-0 shortly afterwards as Pritchard ran down the touchline to score an unconverted try. The Portuguese Lobos (Wolves) responded with flyhalf Joe Gardner doing well to clean up a lineout before breaking the line and linking with fullback Antonio Aguilar who put the homeside on the board. With Gardner's conversion scores were 12-7 to Canada. Portugal took the lead in the 27th minute as Portugal scored a great try to winger Gonçalo Foro which Gardner converted. It was not for lon however as Pritchard slotted a penalty to close give Canada a 15-14 halftime lead.

In the second half, Portugal played positive rattacking rugby but Canada's defence proved strong and was able to hold off Portuguese raids. Gardner put Portugal in front with a penalty goal but shortly thereafter, Pritchard scored his second try, also unconverted which put Canada ahead 20-17. Portugal fought back with Gardner's boot continuing to influence the match as scores were tied 20-20. Pritchard responded with a penalty to put Canada ahead by three points before Canada were forced to defend for their lives as Portugal had a five metre scrum on Canada's try line. The North Americans were able to hold off the Portuguese and in doing so win 23-20 to make it three victories out of four in what has been a highly successful month of international rugby for Canada.

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