By the time of the final whistle, the numbers on the scoreboard didn’t favour the home side but there were plenty of reasons to smile on a historic night for Canadian rugby.
Fergus McFadden scored three tries and Ian Madigan added four conversions as Ireland came out strong in the late stages of the game to win, 40-14, over Canada at Toronto’s BMO Field on Saturday (June 15).
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Both teams came out strong in the first half. While Ireland was the first team to score a try, Canada was the first to put points on the board as James Pritchard hit a successful penalty goal shortly into the game.
Pritchard then capitalized on two more penalty goals to tie and subsequently pass former National Team player and current manager, Gareth Rees, as the all-time leading scorer in Canadian rugby history. Pritchard has scored 494 points in his international career.
One of the other notable highlights of the first half saw Jebb Sinclair lay out Felix Jones from Ireland with a strong open-field tackle that sent both players to the ground hard.
Canada went into the half down 12-9 but came out firing in the second half. In his own backyard, McMaster rugby player and Lakefield, ON native Tyler Ardron scored his first international try to give Canada a temporary two-point lead.
Things unraveled for Canada afterwards as Ireland’s attack, led by McFadden, proceeded to score 28 unanswered points.
“It got a little away from us there,” commented captain Aaron Carpenter after the game. “It was unlucky for us but I thought we were in there until the end.”
Despite being focused on the game, Carpenter and players on both sides took notice of the large turnout at BMO Field. The crowd of 20,396 set a record attendance number for Canadian rugby. “It was an amazing turnout for Canadian Rugby,” noted Carpenter in a post-game interview with TSN.
The international test, broadcast live on TSN, enthralled Canadians across the country and around the world. Prime Minister Stephen Harper tweeted his support from Ireland earlier on Saturday with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.
Canada will return to Toronto on Aug. 24 for the second part of Rugby World Cup Qualifiers with the United States. The first leg of the home-and-home series takes place in Charleston, South Carolina on Aug. 17.