Friday, May 10, 2013

Retro Friday - Quentin Fyffe stars for Canada against Italy in 2003

Photo: BBC
Quentin Fyffe charges forward for Canada against Italy in 2003
Rugby World Cup 2003 was the first of its kind. Never before had there been twenty teams competiting in four pools of five. The format proved to be fairer than that used in Rugby World Cup 1999 in which there were five pools of four and a play-off´s system that started with three pre-Quarter Finals elimination matches. The structure meant those who would win and advance to the Quarter Finals to face the winners of the pools would be backing up by playing twice in far less than a week. The policy saw Argentina eliminate Ireland while Scotland and England claimed wins over Samoa and Fiji. 

For Australia 2003 the new system awarded the top two nations per pool with a Quarter Final. It made for a tournament with far greater emphasis placed on the group stage. Unfortunately, however, the tournament organizers made the grave mistake of having very uneven playing schedules for the competitors. One of the biggest losers was Italy who took on Canada in its third match just four days before facing Wales in its final match. the clash against Wales was so poorly scheduled in favor of the Welsh that Wales´ final pool match against New Zealand took place a staggering eight days after its third against Italy.

Needless to say Italy was given little to no time to recuperate between matches. It simply needed to win three of its four pool matches in any way possible. Italy had played well against Tonga in its second match in running out 36-12 winners but would go on to face Canada and very nearly lose in its third. The Canadians were coming off a four day turn-around after facing New Zealand but planned accordingly by fielding a host of second choice players against the All Blacks. This meant that Canada´s team was close to being as strong as it could have been against Italy.

The match was one that, according to the result, went to script as the Tier One side defeated the Tier Two side. But to suggest that Italy was in control of the match or even the better side would be misleading. The match was, rather, a cse of one that got away from the Canadians. The North Americans were very unlucky not to win the match in Canberra, Central to the teams short fallings was the goalkicking of Jared Barker who missed out on fourteen points. Had he been on target Italy would have lost to Canada, a result that would have been very reputable. Instead Italy´s intent on holding onto its lead by looking to see out the match was what won the game for the Europeans. 

Leading 19-9 with fifteen minutes remaining Italy faced a nightmare as Canada went over for a stunning try in the left corner to see the match almost turn on its head. The try scorer was fullback Quentin Fyffe who ran at great pace off a good angle to get passed the Argentine-Italian fullback Gonzalo Canale. The try came from a scrum in which Morgan Williams found Barker who threw a long cut-out pass to Winton Stanley who had come off his wing. Stanley linked with Dave Lougheed who found Fyffe at the right place at the right time to score. Fyffe´s strong performance continued after the try as he made a clean linebreak that would have been a try had Fyffe been able to link with his colleagues in support. Fyffe was playing in his first and only Rugby World Cup. He had debuted for Canada earlier in 2003 and would make his final appearance in 2005. 

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