The Wallabies' defence of the World Cup was no more convincing in winning in Port Elizabeth yesterday than it had been in losing to South Africa a week ago. For most of the match they were comfortably the poorer side.
Alas for the Canucks, their superiority was established only after Australia had scored 17 points in the first 11 minutes, a transient period of multi- faceted Wallaby rugby at its best which flattered to deceive. England, please note: your prospective quarter-final opponents remain more beatable than anyone dared imagine before the tournament.
Small wonder there was no ecstasy whatever but an abundance of unalloyed relief at the simple fact of a victory. "I am much happier than I was after the game against South Africa," Michael Lynagh, Australia's captain, said, though he could not possibly have been referring to his team's performance.
In fact Lynagh had more to celebrate personally than Australia did collectively. Seventeen points took his world Test record to 894, his second-half try produced by the only decent piece of continuity the Wallabies managed once their opening assault had fizzled out. The Australian coach, Bob Dwyer, said: "We worked well in the beginning with good patterns and tidiness, but the game became a bit of a bun-fight after that."
Once they had scored the two tries that built their early lead, they were so consumed by the relentless Canadian tackling that the third was another 44 minutes in coming and, from that point on, the result more or less safe, it was the Canadians who exerted most of the pressure. "They are a tough lot who hit hard in the tackles," Dwyer said. "They are strong and courageous and want to play the game."
Eventually it was requited with a try by Al Charron, ploughing over from a tap penalty after Graf, MacKinnon and Ennis had each in turn claimed to have made the line. It should have been more and, if Canada can only nail down more of their chances on Saturday, they will severely strain the Springboks as well.
Yesterday's performance also restored Canadian rugby's credibility after a troubled year which included thumping defeats by England and New Zealand. "That was outstanding and I hope the people back home are proud of us," Gareth Rees, the captain, said.
His two penalties had begun the process of hauling Canada into the match after Ilie Tabua and the 19-year-old debutant wing, Joe Roff, had scored Australia's first two tries. From then on, Rees tried to keep the ball in play to avoid line-outs and his forwards drove the Wallabies back in the loose as well as comfortably containing an Australian scrummage disrupted by the need to replace the injured Mark Hartill and, more worryingly, Phil Kearns.
AUSTRALIA: M Burke; D Campese (New South Wales), J Little, T Horan (Queensland), J Roff (Australian Capital Territory); M Lynagh (capt), P Slattery (Queensland); A Daly, P Kearns, M Hartill, W Waugh (NSW), J Eales (Quensland), W Ofahenague, T Gavin (NSW), I Tabua (Queensland). Replacements: E McKenzie (NSW) for Hartill, 57; M Foley (Queensland) for Kearns, 71; G Gregan (ACT) for Slattery, 80.
CANADA: S Stewart (University of British Columbia OB); W Stanley (UBC), C Stewart (Western Province), S Gray (Kats), D Lougheed (Toronto Welsh); G Rees (Newport, capt), J Graf (UBC OB); E Evans UBC OB), K Svoboda (Ajax Wanderers), R Snow (Dogs), M James (Burnaby Lake), G Rowlands (Velox Valhallians), J Hutchinson (UBC OB), A Charron (Ottawa Irish), G MacKinnon (Britannia Lions). Replacement: G Ennis (Kats) for Rowlands, 70.
Referee: P Robin (France).Reuse content