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Rugby: Canada falls to Argentine tide in Langford

Oct 21 2012
Canada's Creag Johnston, left, and Jon Phelan tackle Argentina's Cesar Fruttero during their Americas rugby championship final at Westhills Stadium Saturday night. 

Canada's Creag Johnston, left, and Jon Phelan tackle Argentina's Cesar Fruttero during their Americas rugby championship final at Westhills Stadium Saturday night.

Photograph by: Adrian Lam, Times Colonist , Times Colonist

ARGENTINA 28 CANADA 9

Nobody was crying for Argentina on Saturday night.

Canada got a rare opportunity to measure itself against one of the great rugby-playing nations before 3,255 fans at West-hills Stadium in Langford.

A young Argentine squad (3-0) - with four players who have already been capped with the full national team Pumas - was too big, too strong too fast in defeating Canada (2-1) by a 28-9 count to win the Americas championship for the fourth consecutive year. No other team has won the tournament in its four-year history

"It's tough to lose the game ... we didn't play to our full potential. But give Argentina credit - they pressured us," said Canadian scrum-half and World Cup veteran Sean White of Victoria.

"If we could play 10 games a year at this level, we couldn't help but grow and get better."

The crowd was a West-hills Stadium record for any sport.

"You can't put this crowd into words," said White, a James Bay player and graduate of Oak Bay High.

"It was over-flowing. It was something special and something we will never forget."

Uruguay (1-2) - on the 40th anniversary to the month of the famous Andean rugby team plane crash immortalized in the book and movie Alive - defeated the winless U.S. 268 to capture third place.

The tournament featured the national 'B' teams of the four nations - those players being groomed for promotion to the full national sides for future World Cups and Olympics. Of those four national teams, the Pumas are the best and most famous.

"Tonight, Argentina was the best team on the field," said Argentine head coach Daniel Hourcade.

"Our defence was fantastic. We attacked well, too, but our defence was the key. We played with big hearts and big brains."

Oak Bay High-grad Connor Braid opened scoring with a penalty goal before Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias kicked two penalties for Argentina to make it 6-3 in the opening 20 minutes. A try by fullback Ramiro Moy-ano, converted by Iglesias, made it 13-3 by half time.

Two tries by fly-half Braid and one by Iglesias had Canada within hailing distance at 16-9. But mistakes against a team as good as Argentina are lethal. A lightning-quick converted turnover try by Jeronimo de la Fuente made it 23-9 before Matias Orlando streaked down the right side for another try to close out scoring.

"It was within reach at 16-9 but they struck back at us pretty quickly," said Braid, whose club side is James Bay.

"We had some good pas-sages of play. It was a close game before they ran it up. They capitalized on our little screw-ups. What we need is more games at this level."

On Saturday, it again showed what a gap there is between a second-tier nation such as Canada and a top-tier rugby nations such as Argentina.

"Argentina is a class rugby nation with a lot of depth," said Gareth Rees of Victoria, an all-time Canadian World Cup great, now head of national team programs for Rugby Canada.

The Americas tournament is part of an International Rugby Board-funded campaign to bring up the level of play in the so-called second-tier nations.

There are rumours the IRB was so impressed by the organization of the event here that the tournament is headed back to Victoria next year. That, however, was not officially confirmed by Mark Egan of Ireland, head of development and performance for the IRB, who was in attendance.

"We were very pleased and rugby in Canada can only grow from a competition like this," said Egan.

Sources indicated the IRB could be talking to Langford and Rugby Canada about bringing the Americas championship back to the Island next year.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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