There was a inspiring show of camaraderie and sportsmanship between opponents on the field at Westhills Stadium on Sunday evening.
After the Argentina Jaguars celebrated their latest tournament win at the IRB Americas Rugby Championship in Langford, players were trading everything from their shorts and game jerseys to their shoes with their Canadian counterparts, whom they had just beat 39-9.
Canada A’s team captain, flanker Kyle Gilmour, appeared more frustrated with his team’s bronze medal finish in the four-team round robin event.
“Obviously we’re not pleased with our results in the tournament, “ he said.
Canada, 20-6 winners over Uruguay in their opener Oct. 11, was coming off a 16-3 loss to the USA Selects last week and hoped for a better performance against the defending champion Jaguars. The host team held the Jaguars to a 13-9 lead after one half, but penalty trouble in the second, including a pair of yellow cards that sent men to the sin bin, helped seal Canada’s demise.
“I was really pleased with how the guys prepared for this game and how they turned it around for the first 40 (minutes) after the disappointment on Wednesday,” Gilmour said. “I think we showed a lot in the first half … We were looking pretty good until we were down to 13 men.”
Canada opened the scoring about two minutes in with the first of three Gord McRorie penalty kicks in the half. The team carried the play for much of the period, but gave up a Jaguar try on a giveaway 10 minutes in and allowed the champs to kick easy points twice after penalty calls in the scrum.
The Jaguars, Argentina’s second team, scored a try barely two minutes into the second half, making the most of a sloppy tackle by Canada to go up 20-9.
Then the hosts received two yellow cards in fairly short order that saw them play shorthanded for an extended period of time, a situation that made it tough to play catchup, Gilmour said.
The champs scored a pushover try at the 52-minute mark, then added another just over six minutes later, when a blown lineout by Canada led to an easy steal by Joaquin Paz, who raced in to put the ball down under the posts. With the convert, it was 32-9 Argentina.
Speedy wing Sean Duke, a University of Victoria Vikes player and national teamer who was an injury replacement for the Argentina game, agreed with Gilmour there were some positives to go along with the miscues.
“The first half started out all right, our structure was there and possession wise we were all right,” he said. “What really let us down in the second half were those two yellow cards, obviously. And the way the Argentinians play is an offload game (passing off before a tackle is completed) and we failed to pick up a few runners and that’s what caused a lot of breaks (for the Jaguars).”
Getting a chance to play some international rugby at home is a great opportunity for developing players, Duke added.
“It gives us a level of play we’re not used to in Canada. We have the (Canadian Rugby Championship series), the premier level of rugby within the country. But to be able to play the Jaguars and the Uruguay side and the USA developmental team, that’s a huge step up and it’s given guys really, really valuable experience.”
The Oct. 20 IRB world rankings for countries participating in the ARC showed Argentina at No. 10, with Canada, USA and Uruguay sitting at 17, 18 and 19, respectively. It marked no change from the previous week.
Some of the players suiting up for Canada at the ARC will be part of the touring team heading to Europe later this month for a series of internationals.
Canada will face a Rugby Football Union Championship XV side in Worcester, England on Nov. 2; Namibia in Colwyn Bay, Wales on Nov. 7; Samoa in Vannes, France on Nov. 14 and Romania in Bucharest on Nov. 22.