Canada fall to visit Spain in men’s rugby test

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OTTAWA — The result was disappointing, but the experience will go a long way for Canada’s senior men’s rugby 15 team after a 57-34 loss to Spain on Sunday.

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Ranked 15th in the world, Spain were considered the favourites, but for the young Canadian team it was an opportunity to see what it takes to win on the international field.

“There’s a lot of good in what we’ve done,” said Canada’s head coach Kingsley Jones. “Our breakdown work was really good, there were good performances from one or two individuals and our line-up was great until we lost (players) to maybe a bit of fatigue, but we certainly had the pace in the area we wanted.”

Canada trailed 40-13 after the first half, but regrouped and put together a strong second half beating their opponents 21-17.

Spain picked up where they left off scoring in the opening minutes of the second half, but Canada responded as captain Lucas Rumball fought their way to make it 45-20 .

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“We have to learn to start faster,” Rumball said after the game. “That’s something we’ve done in the past as well, is wait until the game is out of control and we’ve dug ourselves a hole and then we find that spark.

“If we want to be a top team, we really have to start from the start.”

Spain then scored twice more but the home crowd witnessed a strong end to the game when in the 71st minute Canada managed to swing the ball and drive away finishing with Kainoa Lloyd in the test. In time Canada scored once more as Jack McRogers scored his first ever try as he won his first cap to make it 57-34.

Jones felt his team was improving as the game progressed, but admitted that kind of game will be needed for Canada to improve on their 21st-place finish in the world.

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“It’s always a learning experience as they say,” Jones said. “They’ve had a taste of the physicality they’re up against and the precision and unless you play against the top teams you won’t improve.”

Sunday’s match marked the first international test match held at TD Place in Ottawa and, although the 4,178 spectators did not get the result they were hoping for, they did get to see some familiar faces in Connor Keys, who grew up just 20 minutes west of downtown Ottawa and Dawson Fatoric.

“Honestly, it was amazing to be able to perform in front of my family, friends and people I hadn’t seen in years,” Keys said. “It wasn’t a good score, but it was great fun to play in front of them all and I’m still proud of our efforts as a team.”

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Spain topped the scoreboard with six tries in the first half.

“Certainly this half-time result is really one that you are very disappointed with,” Jones said. “Certainly the physicality we needed in the first half was not there and Spain were precise and seized every opportunity.

“The area we will have to look at is the start. We certainly didn’t start as well as we would have liked.

From the first minute, Canada struggled to contain Spain’s physique as they took a 7-0 lead just five minutes into the game.

Canada got on the board on a Peter Nelson penalty conversion to make it 7-3, but the visiting team then scored back-to-back tries to take a 21-3 lead.

Another penalty conversion by Nelson put Canada up to 21-6.

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Fans at 26-6 finally had something to cheer about in the 24th minute as Lindsey Stevens – making his first start after Andrew Quattrin was taken off late through injury – scored his first international try.

Spain would score twice more before the end of the half.

The match was the highlight of Canada’s two-week camp and after the loss the players will return to their respective club teams. Sunday’s game was also the second international test for the Canadians on home soil as they earned a 45-0 victory over the visiting Belgians last weekend in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

After failing to qualify for the 2023 World Cup in France, Canada have turned their focus to 2027.

“We need as many games like this as possible,” Rumball said. “You only really improve by experiencing it and the only way to experience it is to play those international matches and so we need as many of those as possible.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 10, 2022.

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