Rugby Union: Canadians' club batters Welsh into submission

Steve Bale
Thursday 11 November 1993 00:02
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Wales . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .24

Canada. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .26

NEIL JENKINS broke the international record with his eight penalties. Big deal: it was all that could be said for Wales's abject performance last night. Just imagine if it had been the All Blacks.

Canada - not long ago unconsidered as a rugby power - won a match of low grade but, at the death, high drama with a last-kick conversion by Gareth Rees, who with a name like that ought to have been kicking goals for Wales.

Until Al Charron scored his try a minute into injury time, it looked as if Wales would escape though they would scarcely have deserved it. This was headless-chicken rugby familiar from recent Arms Park debacles against Romania and Western Samoa. 'This is a bitter disappointment, especially as we showed a total inability to change the game when it was necessary,' Robert Norster, the Wales manager, said.

Beforehand, the Canadian players had been incredulous that anyone could imagine Wales might win, what with the Canucks' quarter-final place in the 1991 World Cup and their seeding into the 1995 competition while Wales have to qualify. But this was no consolation, and certainly no excuse. Expectancy hangs round the Welsh like lead, not least because of good times like 1971, when a Wales XV beat Canada here 56-10.

Their forwards mechanically ploughed in where the Canadians were known by everyone to be at their strongest - at the closest quarters - and with Charron and company ever ready to hover offside or kill the ball the Welsh back line reaped next to nothing.

The kick-off was delayed by 15 minutes to allow the waiting hordes to get in on time, though in fact the attendance was around 28,000, a little over half capacity. Wales began by driving the vaunted Canadian pack off the very first scrum but this was deceptive and when Welsh forwards sought to commit tacklers they were invariably brought up short.

The unpropitious situation cried out for quicker release and running into space rather than into opponents. Instead, there was hardly any decent rugby and for the most part the match was bogged down in a stream of penalties, Jenkins kicking three and Rees two in the first half and each adding another two before the critical moment when Ian Stuart scored Canada's first try. Adrian Davies's hurried clearance kick was charged down by Chris Tynan, the Canuck at Cambridge, and, assisted by his pack, Stuart burrowed over.

A try was more than Wales managed, or even threatened, their best attacks failing as forwards ran their inevitable way up blind alleys. Given that Canada were so intent on stopping Wales, it was striking that they looked far the more dangerous when they got it out wide.

Their final attack was a case in point, though it was made in sheer desperation after Jenkins had retorted to Stuart's try and Rees's conversion with three more penalties which took him past the seven Simon Hodgkinson landed on this ground for England in 1991. Mark Wyatt's eight for Canada against Scotland later that year came in a non-cap international.

Welsh humiliation was completed when their defence was stretched so far to the left that when the Canadians switched back the other way they had three men over. Once Colin McKenzie had made the requisite ground, Charron's task was simple, - and Rees, the Canuck at Oxford, made his look simple too, as he nervelessly made the winning conversion.

The Welsh management had imagined this would be another step forward after the relatively satisfactory 55-5 win over Japan last month. What the two games showed, however, is that Wales are well placed only against sides who present little physical challenge.

The trouble is that all the leading rugby countries present a mighty physical challenge, and Canada are among them. After all, last year they held England to 26-13 at Wembley, though last month they conceded 45 points to Australia, a statistic that puts last night's Welsh woe into still worse perspective.

Wales: Penalties Jenkins 8. Canada: Tries Stuart, Charron; Conversions Rees 2; Penalties Rees 4.

WALES: A Clement (Swansea); I Evans (Llanelli, capt), S Gibbs (Swansea), N Jenkins (Pontypridd), W Proctor (Llanelli); A Davies (Cardiff), R Moon (Llanelli); M Griffiths (Cardiff), G Jenkins (Swansea), J Davies (Neath), A Copsey (Llanelli), Gareth Llewellyn (Neath), S Quinnell, E Lewis, L Jones (Llanelli).

CANADA: M Williams; R Toews (Meralomas), S Gray (Kats), I Stuart (Vancouver Rowing Club, capt), S Stewart (University of British Columbia Old Boys); G Rees (Oxford University), C Tynan (Cambridge University); P Szabo (Pocomo), I Kennedy (Meralomas), D Jackart (UBC Old Boys), J Knauer (Meralomas), A Charron (Ottawa Irish), I Gordon (James Bay), C McKenzie (UBC Old Boys), J Hutchinson (York Yeomen). Replacement: I Cooper (Vancouver Rowing Club) for Knauer, 47. Temporary substitute: I MacKay (Kats) for Tynan, 40-44.

Referee: O Doyle (Irl).

(Photograph omitted)

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