UVic Vikes Nathan Hirayama kicked two penalties against France
UVic Vikes Nathan Hirayama kicked two penalties against France. Photo by Colin Watson.

Canada were once again a real thorn in the side of their Tier One opponent but could not cause a shock against France as they lost 41-18 on Thursday in Milton Keynes, UK.

It was another spirited performance from Kieran Crowley’s charges who on the hour mark were only 18-24 behind and looking capable of claiming a major RWC scalp. But unfortunately the French would turn the screw late on with two tries that gave the scoreline an unrealistic look, with Canada having pushed them hard all match.

To the contest and it was a thrill-a-minute opening 40 minutes as Canada wowed the supporters with their confident brand of rugby creating two decent crossings.

DTH van der Merwe was again the first crosser for his country, making it three in three matches for him at this Rugby World Cup, as he finished with calmness. That try came after France had started with real class as Frédéric Michalak cut through the defence before setting up centre Wesley Fofana to make it 0-7.

Michalak made it 0-10 soon after before France were over again through hooker Guilhem Guirado at the tail of a driving maul. Suddenly it was a 17-point margin. But up stepped Ciaran Hearn as he caught Canada’s restart to allow recycled ball to eventually find wing Van der Merwe, with Nathan Hirayama’s kick making it 7-17.

The Canadians were rallying and their second try arrived three minutes later when hooker Aaron Carpenter went over. With six minutes left in the half it was 12-17. Unfortunately a late try in the first-half from tighthead prop Rabah Slimani extended France’s cushion to 24-12 heading into the break but there was much to savour.

Canada came out for the second period showing real spirit and were rewarded for their efforts with two Hirayama penalty goals that made it 18-24 on 55 minutes. However Michalak would respond on the hour mark before the French demonstrated their power with a score from veteran Pascal Pape giving them the try bonus-point.

Debut wing Remy Grosso would squeeze over in the left-hand corner for France’s fifth try late on but, like Italy less than a week ago, Philippe Saint-Andre’s outfit had been given a massive working over by the impressive Canadians who once again showed they are a force to be reckoned with at this Rugby World Cup and beyond.

Press conference quotes:

Gareth Rees on how the squad has grown this World Cup
“This team has benefited from two and a half months together and I believe they will put on a show wherever they go and they could put bums on seats which is so important in the modern game. We’d love to have the opportunity to play bigger international games and these boys deserve it on tonight’s performance.”

Kieran Crowley on his team’s effort against France
“I’m really proud of the performance of the guys. They gave it everything and I couldn’t ask for anymore. We got within six points of France but then made a couple of basic mistakes and we gave away a couple of penalties and we were under the gun again so you can’t afford to do that and so we keep learning from it.”

“The guys are gutted in the changing room. We competed for large periods of the game and just didn’t get the result but I’m very very proud of the team.”

Tyler Ardron after the loss and about Canada’s fans
“We play an exciting brand of rugby and when we can over the advantage line and start going forward I don’t think there’s any team that would be comfortable with us. That’s what we did and we were able to play our game.”

“The atmosphere was awesome. We came and checked out the stadium yesterday and when we found out how many tickets had been sold we were definitely excited. We don’t play a lot of games in stadiums like that – we wish we did – but it does get to you at line-out time. But at the same time we were playing rugby and had great support tonight so we could feel the energy build in the stadium.”

(Rugby Canada Release)

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