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Canada vs Portugal




Ottawa, ON

Canada overcame a determined Portugal side to win the first international between the two nations, 42-12, at Twin Elm Park in Nepean on Saturday in front of 2,500 fans.

Canada found the visiting Portugal rugby team as pesky and as ‘game’ as the All-Blacks found Canada when the World’s #1 team played Canada their international match in New Zealand in June. The Portugal team, ranked 21st in the world, refused to succumb to relentless Canadian pressure, and presenting a well-organized and resolute defense in playing for a full eighty minutes. Indeed, similar to Canada against New Zealand, it scored an intercept try in the early going but, just as Canada had in the game in Hamilton, a period of Canadian domination early in the second-half, no unlike the All-Blacks against Canada, put the nail in Portugal’s coffin.

While Canada will gladly claim the victory, it found the Portugese more of a handful than they might have expected. The game shows that Canada needs to find more ways to break through tough defensive structures with more consistency. Although the home team scored three tries in each half, it left a good many begging that would have seen a more lop-sided score. Nevertheless, six tries to two clearly demonstrates the dominance Canada enjoyed over the totally amateur Iberians.

Canada’s World Cup Vice-Captain led Canada out onto the Twin Elm park, set amid the Nepean countryside under cloudy skies, in the absence of Morgan Williams, away at his brother Jeff’s wedding. James last captained Canada against Uruguay, USA and Argentina at the Pan. America tournament in 2003, not a particularly happy one for Canada as it beat Uruguay 21-11 and lost its other two matches. He hoped for a better result today here on home turf.

While this game represented the first time Canada has played Portugal in a full international, Canada’s Sevens team has played Portugal eight times going back to 2002, with both sides recording four wins. Canada won the last encounter 19-12 at the IRB Sevens at the George, South Africa tournament in 2006.

Canada enjoyed the advantage of a strong breeze blowing left to right down the pitch, but suffered the disadvantage of having the sun in their eyes when the sun broke through the clouds. Portugal kicked-off allowing Canada to dominate the first two minutes of play resulting in -referee Christophe Berdos awarding a penalty to the home side on the Portugese five-metre line. Canada won the resultant scrum and after #8 Sean-Michael Stephen had made a rush at the line following a pick-up at the base of the scrum, the ball went wide from scrum-half Ed Fairhurst to fullback Mike Pyke, for the big #15 to score his second try in as many games. Pritchard bounced the ball off the post. Four minutes in: 5-0 Canada.

Portugal worked its way into Canada’s half and earned a penalty for offside at six minutes but #10 Pedro Cabral missed into the wind from 36 metres.

With Canada moving the ball wide at every opportunity, Portugal centre Diogo Mateus intercepted a Ryan Smith pass to romp 60-metres and score. Cabral made good on the conversion: 7-5 Portugal.

The visitors didn’t enjoy their lead for long. At 14-minutes James Pritchard made good on a penalty from 30 meters in front: 8-7.

At 17-minutes Pritchard kicked perfectly to near the corner from a penalty fifty-metres out, and after captain Mike James won the line-out Canada’s pack drove for the line. Portugal stopped the initial drive but tight-head prop Jon Thiel took the ball off the side, twisted his body and stretched over the line to touch down. Pritchard converted: 15-7.

“It was a good try because we had sustained pressure and kept to the plan of driving them,†said Thiel. “ I was lucky enough to bounce through a tackle and ‘long-arm’ it over. This game has been a good learning curve for us because we haven’t played that much together so there is lots to build on.â€

It took until the 39th minute for Canada to score again against a resilient Portugal defense. Canada’s back-rowers Sean-Michael Stephen and Jamie Cudmore, who took a multitude of Canadian ball forward all day, drove into the Portugal 22 before the ball came wide from Fairhurst to Smith and then to Pyke, who fed a speeding DTH van der Merwe on the wing, for the Regina man to dodge a tackle and score in the corner. 20-7 half-time.

Canada looked impressive in the first twenty-minutes of the second-half. Pritchard began by kicking a penalty from in front at 43 minutes: 23-7. Then at 53 minutes DTH van der Merwe scored his fourth international try in his third international match when he took a lovely cut-out pass from James Pritchard, who had joined the line from his off-wing, for van der Merwe to score. Leading up to this centre David Spicer, who played a strong game, had made a determined run for the line only to be stopped short. With the touch-down, Van der Merwe recorded his fifth try against the visiting Portugal team, having scored a hat-trick last weekend against Portugal ‘A’ for the Canada Select side in Toronto. No conversion: 28-7.

“On the first try, David Spicer gave me a pass and I just kept the legs moving ‘til I got in,†said the 21 year-old van der Merwe. “On the second, I wasn’t really expecting the ball but Pritch threw me a great “cut-out†pass and I just had to get over the line.â€

At 59 minutes, after scrum-half Ed Fairhurst took a free kick, he passed to centre David Spicer and the hard-running Victorian ran in under the posts carrying two tacklers with him. Converted Pritchard: 35-7.

A minute later, Canada broke out of its own end with fly-half Ryan Smith making a dashing run before giving a lovely underhanded pass to centre Craig Culpan. Culpan continued the move up-field taking on two tacklers before he fed wing Justin Mensah-Coker, who had only been on the field less than a minute having replaced van der Merwe, and the Albi professional sprinted home from 30-metres. Pritchard converted: 42-7.

It was left to Portugal to enjoy the final say. To its credit the visitors worked the ball almost the length of the field before replacement Jose Pinto went over in the corner at 72-minutes for a well-deserved try. 42-12 final.

“Today we met a bit of adversity against a scrappy side,†said Canada coach Ric Suggitt. “ Bumps happen along the way and as coaches we have to expect these kinds of things. We’re not going into panic mode because of this result. I’m happy the guys won but we’re not satisfied with this result and we know we still have work to do. We have to iron out some rough spots but we’ll be ready by September 9th when we play Wales, and for the other three World Cup games. Credit to Portugal who played a very good game today, and for a full eight minutes, and who, like last week, scored a try at the end of the match. I wish them well in the World Cup, they deserve to be there.â€

“It was a good game of rugby,†said Portugal coach Thomas Morais. “Canada played a very simple but effective game today but we had a disastrous twenty-minutes at the beginning of the second-half. We lost concentration, lots of gaps in defense and not good in set pieces. We only played well for the first twenty-minutes and the last twenty-minutes.â€

“They were a scrappy side,†said Canada’s #8 Sean-Michael Stephen who had a particularly good game. “I was surprised at how tough they were in the tackle and at the break down.â€

“That’s the kind of game that gives coaches lots of ammunition for what to do at training for weeks to come,†said Canada captain Mike James, with a smile, after the game. “ We did some good things today and other things we didn’t do so well. Perhaps our expectations were too high. Not to say we took them lightly in our preparation, but maybe we’re not used to having so much ball and being on attack all the time. To Portugal’s credit they were scrappy and organized and never gave up and put together a good try at the end. They showed lots of self-sacrifice in their tackles.â€

Canada - 42

1. Rod Snow (Newfoundland Rock), 2. Pat Riordan (Burnaby Lake), 3. Jon Thiel (Bayside), 4. Luke Tait (Overmach Parma, ITA), 5. Mike James © (Stade Francais, FRA), 6. Jamie Cudmore (Clermont Auvergne, FRA), 7. Adam Kleeberger ( U. Victoria), 8. Sean Michael Stephen (Beziers, FRA), 9. Ed Fairhurst (Cornish Pirates, ENG), 10. Ryan Smith (Montauban, FRA), 11. James Pritchard (Bedford, ENG), 12. David Spicer (U. Victoria), 13. Craig Culpan (Meraloma), 14. DTH van der Merwe (James Bay), 15. Mike Pyke (Montauban, FRA).
Replacements: 16. Aaron Carpenter (Brantford Harlequins) (#2 @55), 17. Dan Pletch (Oakville Crusaders) (#1 @39), 18. Mike Pletch (Oakville Crusaders) (#3 @64), 19. Mike Burak (Pau, FRA) (#5 @64), 20. Colin Yukes (Agen, FRA) (#7 @55), 21. Matt Weingart (Castaway Wanderers) (#13 @70), 22. Justin Mensah-Coker (Albi, France) (#14 @59).

Coach: Ric Suggittl; Assistants: John Tait, Glen Ella, Kevin Wirachowski; Managers: Bob McGeein, Terry MacPherson

Tries: Mike Pyke, Adam Kleeberger, DTH van der Merwe (2), Mensah-Coker, David Spicer
Cons: James Pritchard (3)
Penalty: James Pritchard (2)

Portugal - 12

1. Juan Murre (OS Belenenses), 2. Joaquain Ferreira ( CDUP), 3. Cristian Spacuhk (OS Belenenses), 4. Goncalo Uva © (GD Direito), 5. Juan Severino (AEIS Agronomia), 6. Diogo Coutinho (GD Direito), 7. Joao Uva ( Os Belenenses), 8. Vasco Uva (GD Direito), 9. Luis Pissarra (AEIS Agronomia), 10. Pedro Cabral (CDUL), 11. Pedro Carvalho ( G D Direito), 12. Diogo Mateus ( Os Belenenses), 13. Frederico Sousa (GD Direito), 14. Antonio Aguilar (GD Direito), 15. Pedro Leal (GD Direito).
Replacements: 16. Andre Silva ( Mont de Marsan), 17. Joao Correia (GD Direito) (#1 @71), 18. David Penalva (Blanagc) (#6 @69), 19. Pedro Murinello (Casacais) (#7 @56), 20. Jose Pinto (GD Direito) (#9 @63), 21. Duarte Pinto (AEIS Agronomia) (#10 @63), 22. Miguel Portela (GD Direito) (#4 @56).

Coach: Tomaz Morais, Daniel Hourcade, Adam Leach; Manager: Rui Alvarez

Try: Diogo Mateus, Jose Pinto
Con: Pedro Leal"

in www.rugbycanada.ca

And the selected players for the RWC:

A.A.COIMBRA - Rui Cordeiro

A.E.I.S.AGRONOMIA - Luís Pissarra; Cardoso Pinto; Juan Severino;

BLAGNAC S.C.R. - David Penalva;

C.D.U.L. - Duarte Figueiredo; Tiago Girão; Pedro Cabral; Gonçalo Foro;

C.D.U.P. - Joaquim Ferreira; Marcelo D'Orey; Gonçalo Malheiro;

C.F. "OS BELENENSES" - Juan Murre; Cristian Spachuk; João Uva; Diogo Mateus; David Mateus;

G.D.CASCAIS - Paulo Murinello;

G.D.DIREITO - João Correia; Vasco Uva; Diogo Coutinho; José Pinto; Miguel Portela; Pedro Carvalho; Frederico Sousa; Pedro Leal; António Aguilar;

MONTPELLIER H.R.C. - Gonçalo Uva;

S.L.BENFICA - Diogo Gama;

I've been really impressed with Portugal's debut. They shown passion and pride, as well as tenacious rugby. Canada is improving rapidly, I think. They're still a long ways away from the home nations and such, but I think they'll be able to get a result here.

They were unlucky not to beat Fiji and put up a brave fight.

I'll be cheering for the Canadians, but I want to see some tries from the Portuguese as well, and overall...an entertaining match.

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