Thursday, March 1, 2012

Canada vs Ireland A, 2009

Ander Monro advancing
A cracking match between Canada and Ireland A took place at the unofficial home of USA rugby - Infinity Park in Glendale, Colorado as part of the 2009 Churchill Cup. While it was officially Canada´s test team facing Ireland´s fringe players it was, in reality, not like this at all. Canada was not at full strength with coach Kieran Crowley opting to experiment with a number of players in preperation for Rugby World Cup 2011. Of the tight-five that started only Pat Riordan would go on to be a starter in New Zealand 2011 and of the other four only Tyler Hotson would make the Canadian squad. Ireland A´s team, in contrast had a number of players who are now permanently in the Irish starting line up. The team featured names including Sean Cronin, Sean O´Brien and Fergus McFadden. It didn´t stop in the starting lineup, however, as the bench included some big names including Johnny Sexton. 

The match was the first for the Irish in the tounament and the second for the Canadians. Canada had played Georgia four days earlier at the same venue and won the match 42-10. Despite having a significant disadvantage due to scheduling, the Canadians put on a great performance and not only pushed the Irish far but were leading for large segments of the match. When the referee blew his whistle for halftime Canada had just gone through a period of significant pressure with Ireland hot on attack inside Canada´s 22. With Canada holding firm the North Americans went into the interval leading 16-13. Ireland hit back after the break to level the scores but Canada soon there after restored a three point lead. The Europeans were only able to take the lead with 11 minutes of playing time remaining. The result meant Canada finished second in the Pool and went on to face the Argentina Jaguares in the Plate Final.

The match really should have been an official test match. Ireland was not playing any tests at the time due to the involvement of elite players with the British & Irish Lions who were tourning South Africa. With the Churchill Cup now defunct the possibility of Ireland touring North America has been greatly increased and when Ireland do return the team should, indeed, be experimental. 

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