Sunday, July 12, 2009

Canada into All Blacks pool RWC 2011

Last Saturday, July 4th Independence Day, Canada fell to USA in World Cup qualifying, played in 100 degree heat in the welter of a humid South Carolina summer, by a score of 12-6.

That test was carried on ESPN until half-time, when the murder of ex-Titans quarterback Steve McNair broke and became their main priority, and the test match got bumped to ESPN2. TSN in Canada, carrying the qualifier for free, televised the whole test, their first rugby broadcast on that network in probably a decade.

The winner of the RWC Americas 1 qualifier would be comprised of a cumulative (or as the soccer folk say, "aggregate") score over a two-test home-and-away series.

The rubber match was yesterday in Edmonton, and Canada not only had to win, they had to win by at least six points to cover their defecit.

(Sadly, the ball got dropped, and neither ESPN or TSN, nor any other networks, picked up the return rubber-match played in Edmonton for broadcast. Some of us tried to view via a live stream of the match, but the audio-video quality was dodgy, to say the least.)

The uptick is that Canada pulled off the comeback, and has now qualified for RWC 2011, and will be slotted into Pool A, along with powerhouse France and the superpower tournament host New Zealand All Blacks.

Canadian coach Kieran Crowley will doubtlessly feel chuffed this morning. The former All Black played a test match for the inaugural RWC in 1987, also hosted in NZ,. and the All Blacks only RWC championship title. Crowley almost certainly wanted to bring his new team back home, and play against the host side. Hopefully it will also provide a Canadian media boost for the tournament.

The United States, meanwhile, need to ice their bruises and get ready for another elimination qualifier to secure the Americas 2 slot, and will face a torrid time from the improving Uruguay.

Canada make the World Cup

July 12, 2009

Canada has become the first nation to qualify for Rugby World Cup 2011 through the qualifying rounds, beating the USA 41-18 on Saturday.

The hosts had gone into the second leg in Edmonton needing to overturn a six-point deficit after losing the first encounter 12-6 in Charleston last weekend.

Canada's emphatic win at Ellerslie Rugby Park gave them an 47-30 aggregate victory and a place in Pool A with New Zealand, France and Tonga as well as the Asia 1 qualifier - likely to be Japan.

The USA are not yet out of thr running; they face Uruguay over two matches to see who will join Australia, Ireland Italy and another European qualifier in Pool C.

The Canadians, who have played at every Rugby World Cup to date, had moved ahead on aggregate by the 25th minute with James Pritchard, who had already kicked a penalty, crossing for the opening try after some good work by the impressive centre DTH van der Merwe.

With Canada leading 10-0 after Pritchard added the conversion, things got worse for USA within a minute when centre Paul Emerick was sent off by referee Alan Lewis. The hosts made the most of their man advantage with Adam Kleeberger and Justin Mensah-Coker crossing for tries to make it 24-0 at half time.

The Eagles needed to score first if they were to have any hopes of salvaging an unlikely victory against a Canadian outfit playing an attacking brand of rugby. Hercus did just that with a 51st minute penalty, but that was cancelled out by a try from the hosts' scrum-half Ed Fairhurst.

Wing Kevin Swiryn crossed for the Eagles' first try just before the hour mark, a score converted by Hercus, and the fly-half then kicked a penalty to cut the deficit to 31-13 on the day - 37-25 on aggregate - but there was to be no comeback with Canada crossing for a fifth try within minutes.

Van der Merwe had been exploiting the space created by Emerick's sending off and creating opportunities for Canada and was finally rewarded for his impressive display when the centre crossed for his side's fifth try of the afternoon in the 69th minute.

Canada increased their advantage when wing Matt Evans touched down, before USA captain Todd Clever scored a consolation try five minutes from time. It was the Canadians and an excitable crowd of around 5,000 who were celebrating come the final whistle.



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