Canada’s scrum was great, defence was adequate and the backs had their chances.
Argentina, however, was too good for the inexperienced Canadian side on Saturday night. The Argies continued its dominance, taking the third Americas Rugby Championship with a 28-9 win over Canada at Westhills Stadium. Uruguay defeated U.S.A. 26-8 in the earlier match of the day.
The Canadians made too many mistakes, which eventually proved costly. All nine points came from penalty kicks off the boot of fly half Connor Braid.
“(Argentina) is a quality side, I don’t know what else to say,” said prop Hubert Buydens. “It’s disappointing. But the sun will come up tomorrow.”
Playing to a crowd of 3,255 (standing room only) in a game that was mostly without flow, the Canadians managed several drives down field, phase after phase, but struggled each time within the Argies’ 22-metre line.
The game’s turning point came midway through the second half.
Canada’s forward pack put a dominating string of four scrums together at Argentina’s five-metre line. Each time the ball was pulled out by scrum half Sean White, the Argie defence closed the gap before the men in red could score.
Instead of the much-needed try, the Canadians eventually settled for a Braid penalty kick. Play had then resumed for a matter of seconds when Canadian captain Tyler Ardron, who was otherwise superb in the ARC, dropped the ball. It took an Argie bounce off the IRB-approved artificial turf, straight into the arms of fullback Ramiro Moyano, who ran it in under the posts to make it 23-9 with the conversion.
It was as deflating to the crowd as it was to the Canadian players.
“It’s heartbreaking (anytime they score against the flow),” Buydens said.
“I’m really proud of the boys. The set piece went really well, better than even we expected, but we’ve got to capitalize when we’re in their end.”
Now’s the time for Buydens and his ARC teammates to start fresh, as they hope for selection to the Canadian squad that will tour the U.K. in November test series.
Buydens is a likely pick. The former offensive lineman from the Saskatchewan Huskies and 2008 CFL draft pick of the B.C. Lions made the 2011 Rugby World Cup squad and he’s not done yet. He will return to prop for Oak Bay’s Castaway Wanderers of the Canadian Direct Insurance Premier League, as he campaigns for the 2015 RWC in England.
Forwards coach Chris Silverthorn balanced a sobering outlook with one of hope.
“The guys in the scrum dominated set piece, and not too many times against Argentina did we have control of our set piece, so I’m happy with that, we just couldn’t put the rest of the game together.”
Silverthorn also tipped his hat to some of the promising forwards that have a chance of wearing the maple leaf when Canada plays neutral site matches against Samoa and Russia in Colwyn Bay, Wales, and the New Zealand Maori in Oxford, England.
Expect Tyler Ardron to join prop Buydens on that team, while coach Kieran Crowley will give long looks to prop Doug Woolridge, hooker Ray Barkwill, and second-rower Chris Long, who all performed well in the ARC.
Rock and wrong
Rock music made a criminal invasion of the rugby-specific culture at Westhills Stadium on Saturday night.
Throughout Canada’s match, music blared from sideline speakers at the most inappropriate times, and was particularly felonious during the should-have-been-quiet lead up to penalty kicks for both sides.
Seeing a rugby ball placed on a kicking tee is akin to pressing the mute button on the stadium. It’s a magic moment precious to the sport of rugby, when the chatter of a stadium dims to a whisper. In many cases, near silence.
The added noise was no doubt born from a desire to “sell” the game to a new crowd. But a quick assessment of the fans, young and old, revealed many who were well-versed with the sport.