Saturday, January 14, 2012

Churchill Cup 2011 - Italy A vs Canada

Chauncey O´Toole putting in a performance that landed him at the Ospreys

2011 saw the end of the Churchill Cup with the final ever tournament being played in England with Canada, the England Saxons, Italy A, Russia and the United States of America all competing. The tournament had been used as a development tool from domestic to international level and it has proven to be effective with Canada  doing very well in the 2010 tournament but it came at a cost. The tournament was played during the June international window which meant that Canada and the USA both missed out on incoming tours as rather than host three international matches counting towards IRB World  Rankings they would instead play mainly against the A teams from the likes of England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. Unsurprizingly this meant that test players from the two North American countries were playing little in the way of test rugby.

The 2011 tournament saw both Canada and the USA using it to test a number of players with World Cup spots on the line. The USA fielded virtually its entire second string side while Canada prefered to use virtually its strongest XV. Some fringe players such as Brian Erichsen and Conor Trainor were given a chance but otherwise it was the top players taking the field. Trainor took his chance to impress and secured his place in Canada´s World Cup squad.  

The Canadians first match of the tournament was against Italy A. The match took place at the home of the Northampton Saints, Franklin's Gardens. Canada played an interesting style of running rugby which looked different to that utilized in previous years. The North Americans attacked through its impressive looseforward trio of Chauncey O´Toole, Jebb Sinclair and Aaron Carpenter having the three run close to the ruck at speed rather than try to act like traditional forward battering-rams. The backs also recieved plenty of ball and Canada were able to advance forward throughout the contest.

The Italian were leading at halftime as neither side was able to score a try. The match was turned on its head shortly after the restart, however as Canada scored three good tries to Aaron Carpenter, Jason Marshall and James Pritchard  in a twelve minute period of dominance. From there closed out the match to complete a 26-12 win while preventing the Italians from scoring a try of their own. Pritchard was unable to impress with his goalkicking but his eight points were sufficient for his team to control the match. Flyhalf, Ander Monro slotted a first half dropgoal. There had been question marks over the inclusion of a number of these players in the starting XV to take on Tonga in Canada´s first match of 2011 but they all seemed to show why they should be on the field in Whangarei, New Zealand.

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