With snow predicted to stick around for this week around Langford, it’s likely that Canada’s men’s rugby 15s won’t get much chance to practise under typical conditions before meeting Chile this Saturday (Feb. 11) in round two of the Americas Rugby Championship series.
Coming off a 20-6 loss to Argentina XV on a frigid night that saw snow cover the entire Westhills Stadium field excepting the line areas, and freezing rain in the second half, Canada will no doubt be better prepared as they look to even their record.
Westshore Rugby Football Club member and Canada eighth man Clay Panga shivered after last Saturday’s match as he described the conditions.
“You roll the ball on the ground and it turns into a snowball,” he said. “It just means you can’t play as expansive. The ball’s slippery and instead of catching the ball early, you’re catching it in your gut just so you can really secure it. It’s a huge factor.”
Argentina came as advertised: their lineup was big and physical, with plenty of pace. Canada scrum half Phil Mack said while playing them to a 3-3 tie at halftime and trailing 10-6 early in the second half was a positive sign, Chile will present an equal challenge.
“They play the same abrasive style, they’re going to be big and physical,” he said. “I thought for 60 minutes we fronted up really well (against Argentina), but we’ve got to do it for 80.”
Last Saturday both teams were challenged by the tricky footing on the turf field and slippery ball handling, both potential factors this weekend. But the second half saw Argentina take better advantage of their opportunities, which were compounded by the poor conditions.
“It’s just about making mistakes in the right area of the field. You’re going to drop balls, but if you do it in your half you’re going to get punished for it, and I think we just gave up too much ball in our half,” Mack said.
The Argentinians took the lead for good in the 50th minute when Domingo Miotti kicked a low ball a few metres into the in-goal area and teammate Santiago Medrano fell on it for a try. “When the ball hits the deck in those conditions, it’s pretty easy just to hack it forward … it was a footrace at that point and we lost,” Mack said.
With Argentina up 10-3, Canada’s Gordon McRorie kicked his second penalty of the match in the 62nd minute to cut the lead to four points.
But five minutes later, Segundo Tuclet hauled in a clearing kick by Canada and raced down the sideline for a try to give Argentina some insurance. Miotti kicked his second penalty in the 75th minute to round out the scoring.
“I think we just didn’t do what we talked about doing in these conditions,” Canada head coach Mark Anscombe said. He described Tuclet’s scoring play: “We’d win a ball and kick it open and he beats four guys down the sideline. You’re not going to win games when you do that.”
As for preparations for Chile, Anscombe said, “we’re just going to keep working on what we’ve been spending time on. The five guys from France only got here Monday; it’s not even been a week. We’ve got to start showing a bit of faith and put some time into it.”
Tickets are still available for the Feb. 11 match with Chile, which kicks off at 5 p.m. Visit events.rugbycanada.com to purchase.