Friday, January 20, 2012

Churchill Cup 2011 - Canada vs Russia

Chauncey O´Toole impressed again for the Canucks
Canada´s final two years in the Churchill Cup were the most successful. On both occassions the country made it to the final after defeating teams considered to be superior. It was a part of Canada´s abilities not being fully acknowledged as the majority of sources wrote of Canada´s chances due to the disproportion of professional and amateur players. Indeed, the North Americans fielded a team made up of far more Canadian based players than professionals. Only Jamie Cudmore and DTH van der Merwe were playing regularly at the top level while others were playing in Englands second division. Canada´s second match of the tournament was against Russia and it came only days after the team had faced and impressed in defeating Italy A. Canada made it back-to-back wins to qualify for the Churchill Cup Final in claiming a a 34-18 win after being pused hard by the Europeans.

The match was of great significance for a number of reasons both rubgy and no rugby related. It featured the world´s two largest countries playing against each other for only the second time ever and was played in a tiny stadium in Esther, London which is also the home of Canadian back, Phil MacKenzie qwho was on the bench. It also featured the long awaited return of Canada´s enforcer, secondrower Jamie Cudmore. The Clermont secondrower had not played international rugby since Rugby World Cup 2007 due to injury, suspension and some matches taking place outside of the allocated IRB test windows. His inclusion in the team for this match was considered vital as his high workrate and impressing tackling were needed to set the tone for Canada to push on and impress at Rugby World Cup 2011.

Cudmore for Clermont vs Perpignan
Cudmore was a veteran of Australia 2003 and France 2007 in which he had played six matches but, curiously, five of them had been in the backrow. His only previous World Cup match in the secondrow was vs New Zealand in Melbourne in 2003. Such was the depth Canada had with Mike James and Colin Yukes. Neither player was around any longer come 2011 which meant Cudmore was needed to not only play at the top of his game but also to be the  engine man for the younger squad members. It became all the more important when the French based secondrower, Josh Jackson was not selected by coach Kieran Crowley for either the Churchill Cup or New Zealand 2011. Cudmore was not only the only player playing at the top level in the second and backrows but also easily the most experienced. This saw Crowley use Cudmore in the secondrow starting with the clash vs Russia in the Churchill Cup. He joined up with Tyler Hotson while Jebb Sinclair played in the 6 shirt. Sinclair had recently secured a professional contract with London Irish to start after the World Cup. At the World Cup Canada would use Sinclair and Cudmore together in the secondrow rather than go for tall timber. This also enabled the Canucks to have mobility in both the second and backrows as Chauncey O´Toole, Aaron Carpenter and Adam Kleeberger would form an impressive trio.

Kleeberger was on the sidelines during the Churchill Cup and busy growing his beard which was evident during the match with Russia as Canada were lacking the same zip that they would produce a great gameplan and results to open the World Cup campaign with a win over Tonga. Other players were missing too such as DTH van der Merwe and Pat Riordan with the usual captain being rested for the match and taking a spot on the bench. Russia were not at full strength either, however, but this did not stop the Bears from playing very well and taking an 18-15 halftime lead. The Canadians win was based on a solid seconhalf fightback in which backrower, Chauncey O´Toole put in a notable performance in scoring a try and showing impressive endurance. Earlier on Canada had scored two tries with winger Justin Mensah-Coker and the young but promising centre Conor Trainor scoring first half tries. But what Canada did Russia did better in the first 40 minutes with Igor Klyuchnikov and winger Vasily Artemyev both scoring good tries and the boot of Yuri Kushnarev ensuring the Bears held a three point advantage at the interval.

Canada´s comeback included three tries with captain of the day, Ander Monro scoring a spectacular try from flyhalf after he collected an offload from inside centre Mike Scholz. The try, recently featured on Argentina 2023 as potentially the greatest Canadian try of the decade. It was followed by by O'Toole´s try and also a try to winger Matt Evans. Fullback, James Pritchard also got on the scoresheet as he kicked a penaltry and was successful in converting three of Canada´s tries. The entertaining running rugby being employed by both teams would be replicated at New Zealand 2011 with both Canada and Russia scoring some great tries. The two sides showed signs that with careful planning and outside help they could both kick on to join the first tier like Italy has done over the past decade.

15 Igor Kluchnicov (VVA-Podmoskovje)
14 Vasily Artemiev (Northampton Saints, England)
13 Igor Galinovskiy (Krasny Yar)
12 Alexey Makovetskiy (Krasny Yar)
11 Vladimir Ostroushko (Enisey-STM-Krasnoyarsk)
10 Yuri Kushnarev (VVA-Podmoskovje)
9 Alexander Shakirov (VVA-Podmoskovje)
8 Vyacheslav Gratchev (Avenir de Bizanos, France)
7 Andrey Garbuzov (Krasny Yar)
6 Andrey Temnov (Enisey-STM-Krasnoyarsk)
5 Alexander Voitov (VVA-Podmoskovje)
4 Vladimir Boltenkov (Imperia Penza)
3 Ivan Prischepenko (Krasny Yar)
2 Vlad Korshunov, Captain (VVA-Podmoskovje)
1 Sergey Popov (Slava Moscow)

Replacements: 16 Valery Tsnobiladze (Novokuznetsk), 17 Alexey Travkin (VVA-Podmoskovje), 18 Alexey Panasenko (VVA-Podmoskovje), 19 Victor Gresev (VVA-Podmoskovje), 20 Andrey Bykanov (Slava Moscow), 21 Sergey Trishin (VVA-Podmoskovje), 22 Anton Ryabov (Krasny Yar)


15 James Pritchard (Bedford RFC, England)
14 Matthew Evans (Newport Gwent Dragons, Wales)
13 Conor Trainor (BC Bears)
12 Michael Sholtz (Ontario Blues)
11 Justin Mensah-Coker (BC Bears)
10 Ander Monro, Captain (Ontario Blues)
9 Sean White (BC Bears)
8 Aaron Carpenter (Plymouth Albion, England)
7 Chauncey O'Toole (The Rock)
6 Jebb Sinclair (The Rock)
5 Jamie Cudmore (Clermont, France)
4 Tyler Hoston (Plymouth Albion, England)
3 Scott Franklin (Prairie Wolf Pack)
2 Ryan Hamilton (BC Bears)
1 Thomas Dolezel (Prairie Wolf Pack)

Replacements: 16 Pat Riordan (BC Bears), 17 Andrew Tiedemann (Prairie Wolf Pack), 18 Hubert Buydens (Prairie Wolf Pack), 19 Mitchell Gudgeon (BC Bears), 20 Nanyak Dala (Prairie Wolf Pack), 21 Edward Fairhurst (BC Bears), 22 Phil Mackenzie (Esher, England)

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