Rugby Canada's Men's Under 17 Team showed plenty of fight and heart despite enduring a tough time in the first match of their UK tour, going down 48-10 to a strong Gloucester Academy side.
Canada’s U17 spent the morning of game day working through their final adjustments to their game plan before moving on to Gloucester's famed Kingsholm stadium for their first encounter of this year’s campaign. It was special for the players for this game to be played at the home of the Cherry and Whites, with the Canadian flag blowing and the National Anthem playing. There were almost 800 people in the crowd and the volume at times was deafening, the scoreboards had both the Rugby Canada and Gloucester logos, and the game was carried live on the jumbotron – everything combining to create a rugby atmosphere few of the players had ever experienced before.
The game started at a ferocious pace, and after conceding a couple of early scores, the young Rugby Canada athletes grew into the game, showing resolve in defence against their experienced opposition and conceding just once more before half-time, in addition to adding three points of their own through the boot of Shawnigan Lake's Giuseppe DuToit to make it 19-3 after 40 minutes.
The second half followed a similar pattern, with Gloucester again starting strongly and muscling over for another brace of tries before Canadian determination kicked in and held the Cherry and Whites at bay for long periods of the game. The West Country side continued to exert pressure, making it tell with a further two tries as the game progressed. However, the U17s continued to show fight, claiming the last word with a well-taken try by Aurora Barbarians' Paul Ciulini. Michael Douros added the extras.
Despite the result and scoreline, the match will have proved an important introduction to the level and pace of play that the Canadians are likely to come up against in the remaining games on tour. “Tonight’s game was exactly the sort of test we were looking for," Coach Jim Delaney said. "The players now know the level they need to achieve moving forward to our next game against Wales."
The Gloucester test will also have provided coaching and playing staff alike the opportunity to identify areas for improvement ahead of their next match. "We put ourselves under great pressure from the start by turning the ball over at the first two scrums," Delaney said. "However it was a great experience for the two young 15-year old players who started up front. They absorbed a lot of pressure and in the end our scrum became a lot more stable. The area of the game we struggled with the most was the contact area. We didn’t do a good enough job of protecting the ball in the contact zone allowing Gloucester to contest every breakdown. This will be an area of focus in our practice tomorrow."
The match was not without its positives for the Canadians, with Delaney noting the ambition his side showed with ball in hand. "Although the score line does not show it we showed some good intent when we had the ball. We broke the Gloucester line on many occasions, but we just couldn’t get enough players in support of the ball carrier. During our attempts to play we made many mistakes as we developed our understanding of each other. Although it was a heavy loss there were many positive aspects to our game and many players reacted well to the pressure."
"The Gloucester side picked tonight was a good side, full of players with speed and more importantly quick feet. A poor start by us allowed them to settle while our start was anxious. The environment in a world-class facility was overwhelming and it was daunting for the players who for some have never seen a ground like that." Nevertheless, the coach said that the feeling in camp overall was happiness with the performance, if not the result.
All 26 squad members got to run out on the Kingsholm turf, with Delaney identifying those who rose to the challenge ahead of selection for their next match on tour. That game takes place on Thursday April 4 at Rodney Parade, home of RaboDirect Pro12 side Newport Gwent Dragons, where the U17s will play Wales Schools U16 in their second and final warm-up match ahead of games against England South, Belgium and France at the RFU's Wellington Festival
Rugby Canada U17 UK tour schedule
Monday April 2 vs. Gloucester RFC Academy
Wednesday April 4 vs. Wales Schools U16
Wellington College Festival
Sunday April 8 vs. Belgium U17
Wednesday April 11 vs. England South U16
Friday April 13 vs. France U16
PLAYER NAME/ CLUB/ CITY/PROVINCE
Nicholas Andrews – Lords Tweedsmuir SS (Surrey, BC)
Randall Barton – Shawnigan Lake (Duncan, BC)
Lucas Bradley – Alberni D SS (Port Alberni, BC)
Paul Ciulini – St Joan of Arc, Aurora Barbarians (Maple, ON)
Thomas Chan – Lakefield College (Peterborough, ON)
Andrew Coe – Bill Crothers, Markham Irish (Markham ON)
Peter John Collins – St. Michael’s College, Oakville Crusaders (Mississauga, ON)
Michael Douros – Senator O’Connor, Balmy Beach (Toronto, ON)
Giuseppe DuToit – Shawnigan Lake (Mapleridge, BC)
Marshall Fuller – Collingwood, Capilano (West Vancouver, BC)
Harjun Gill – St Georges School, Meralomas (Vancouver, BC)
Tristan Hooey – Glebe, Bytown (Ottawa, ON)
George Jeavons-Fellows – The Kings School, Worcester Warriors (Bricklehampton, UK)
Winston Jin – St Georges School, Meralomas (Vancouver, BC)
Kieran Lacey – Holy Heart of Mary, Swilers (St Johns, NL)
Jordan Marsh – Stoufville D.S.S, Markham Irish (Stouffville, ON)
Calixto Martinez – Earl Marriott, Bayside (Langley, BC)
Connor McRae – Collingwood, Capilano (West Vancouver, BC)
Christopher Miles – Shawnigan Lake, Velox (North Saanich, BC)
Spencer Miller – Yale, Abbotsford (Abbotsford, BC)
Oliver Nott – Shawnigan Lake, Cowichan (Cowichan, BC)
Rupert Peers – Elgin Park, Bayside (Surrey, BC)
Lucas Rumball – Senator O’Connor, Balmy Beach (Toronto, ON)
Mitchell Santilli – St.John’s College, Brantford Harlequins (Brantford, ON)
John Shaw – St. Peter CHS, Bytown Blues (Orleans, ON)
Brandon Waeyen – Henry Wisewood HS, Hornets (Calgary, AB)
NON TRAVELLING RESERVES:
Louis Retief – Sardis SS, Abbotsford (Chilliwack, BC)
Kieran Washburn – Beaumont composite, Edmonton NoeWesters (Beaumont, AB)
Thomas MacDougall – Chateauguay Valley, Ormstown (Ormstown, QC)
Devin King –Uxbridge SS, Oshawa Vikings (Stouffville, ON)
Tobin Sydney-Smith – Sentinel, Capilano (West Vancouver, BC)
Spencer Loughlin – Yale, Abbotsford (Abbotsford, BC)