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TENSE, tough and thrilling the first Test here may have been, but a classic it was not as Canada shaded England for an historic win. England had held the whip hand ever since the first game between the two countries in 1964 but, at the fifth attempt, the Canadians triumphed largely because of the quality of their defence.
England won a glut of first-phase possession, but the lack of an instinctive playmaker among the backs revealed a team devoid of flair, fluency and penetration.
The expected domination in the loose by John Hall and Neil Back never materialised and instead it was Glen Ennis and Colin MacKenzie who took the eye.
An early indication of the physical nature of Saturday's game came when Alan Buzza was stunned by a tackle from Gareth Rees and had to be replaced by Nick Beal.
Martin Johnson and Andy Blackmore ruled the line-out, but the more experienced Canadians held sway in the scrums and the rolling mauls.
David Pears twice gave England the lead with penalties, his third a huge kick from over 50 yards, but first a drop goal from John Graf and then a penalty from Rees saw the Canadians draw level.
The only break of any quality came midway through the second half when the Canadian centre Steve Gray sliced through, only to be collared by Pears and Steve Ojomoh. England's backs were then caught offside at the ensuing ruck and Rees added a simple penalty.
Back came England and a burst from a scrum by Ojomoh cleared the defence only for Canada to kill the ball, Pears levelling the score again with his fourth penalty.
England's frustration, however, showed in the closing stages and when Back was caught punching Karl Svoboda by a touch judge, Rees landed the penalty that saw Canada emerge triumphant.
'It was a very tense and close game throughout,' Peter Rossborough, the England manager, said. 'Canada tackled very well and their ability to knock the man down won the day for them.' England now head east to Ontario, where they will want to square the series.
Canada: Penalties Rees 4; Drop goal Graf. England: Penalties Pears 4.
CANADA: S Stewart (UBC Old Boys); J Loveday (Calgary Irish), S Gray (Vancouver Kats), G Rees (Oak Bay Castaways), D Lougheed (Toronto Welsh); J Graf (UBC Old Boys), C Tynan (Vancouver Meralomas); E Evans (IBM Tokyo), K Svoboda (Ajax Wanderers, capt), D Jackart (UBC Old Boys), A Charron (Ottawa Irish), J Knauer (Vancouver Meralomas), G Ennis (Suntory Tokyo), B Breen (Vancouver Meralomas), C MacKenzie (UBC Old Boys).
ENGLAND: D Pears (Harlequins); A Buzza (Wasps), S Potter (Leicester), D Hopley (Wasps), C Oti (Wasps); P Challinor (Harlequins), K Bracken (Bristol); G Rowntree (Leicester), J Olver (Northampton, capt), V Ubogu (Bath), M Johnson (Leicester), A Blackmore (Bristol), J Hall (Bath), N Back (Leicester), S Ojomoh (Bath). Replacement: N Beal (Northampton) for Buzza, 4.
Referee: S MacNeill (Australia).Reuse content