GAME DAY: Tuesday (Oct. 16), Canada vs. U.S.A., 7:30 p.m. at Westhills Stadium. Argentina vs. Uruguay at 5:30 p.m.
If the Americas Rugby Championship is going to benefit one country more than the other three, it’s Canada.
The hosts defeated Uruguay, 28-10 on Friday, Day 1 of the three-game ARC tournament. Tournament favourites Argentina outclassed the Americans 39-3 under the pouring rain of the first game of the Friday double-header at Westhills Stadium in Langford.
For Canada, which remained 13th in the International Rugby Board rankings on Monday, the tournament schedule presents a steady climb in terms of opposition. Uruguay is ranked 21st, while Tuesday’s (Oct. 16) opponent, U.S.A., is ranked 17th, and Argentina, who Canada will face on Saturday, is ranked eighth.
“I’m happy with Friday’s result. A win is good but there is lots to work on,” said Kieran Crowley, head coach of Canada’s senior men’s program.
“We couldn’t build any momentum. In the first half we kicked away too much ball and we didn’t build a lot of pressure,” said the former New Zealand All Black. “Then in the second half we played 20 minutes down a man (due to separate 10 minute sin bins to centre Nick Blevins and No. 8 Tyler Ardron).”
Down 3-0 early, Ardron, the captain, gave Canada a boost with an interception and 50-yard run back for a try. Forward Patrick Parfrey scored another try minutes later and by the 10-minute mark Connor Braid had hit a penalty conversion to make it 12-3.
The Canadians never looked back, despite a punch-up and the subsequent sin bins.
“We were pretty fired up playing at home,” Braid said.
“It’s pretty cool having all the friends and family here,” said the 22-year-old, a James Bay Athletic Association member and a 2008 Oak Bay High graduate.
“I was a little nervous before the game. You don’t want to let anybody down, but we played a pretty decent game and good start to the tournament.”
The Canadian roster is built with just a few veterans from past international squads, with injured scrum half Sean White, 24, another James Bay player and Oak Bay grad, one of two RWC 2011 veterans, along with prop Hubert Buydens of the Castaway Wanderers.
White is day-to-day with a fractured bone in his thumb, something he should be able to play with against U.S.A. on Tuesday (results of which were past press time) and Argentina on Saturday. But it’s also the type of injury that could be made worse, said Crowley.
“The thumb is something he suffered during training. We don’t want to compromise White for the upcoming November test tour, so we’ll see what the doctors say.”
Kyle Armstrong, an Ontario player and former member of Oak Bay’s Castaway Wanderers, played just fine at scrum half but three internationals in eight days is a lot of high-impact rugby.
Quite a few changes will be made for Tuesday, with a lot of young players ready to debut.
Crowley’s use of the team is to build towards the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England.
Weather wise, the Westhills Stadium turf held up well under Friday’s downpours, a test for one of the few artificial playing surfaces approved by IRB. The rain didn’t stop Braid from hitting three penalties and two try conversions. He estimated his longest kick, from near centre, at about 45 yards. After the match Braid stood at the sidelines signing autographs. His soaking wet arms covered not in dirt, but with smudges of the black rubber beads that lay below the green turf.
“We play in rain five months of the year, so that’s no different, but obviously the ball won’t kick as far. The nice thing is it’s not muddy.”
B.C. Rugby Union men’s results from Saturday (Oct. 13): Meraloma RC defeated the Castaway Wanderers 20-13; UBC Old Boy Ravens defeated James Bay 22-18; Bayside defeated UVic Vikes 24-22. Women’s results: UBC defeated UVic Vikes 10-5.