Canada’s men’s rugby team, along with Alexis Creek’s Jake Ilnicki, dropped the opening match of its November international tour 52-21 to Ireland in front of 52,000 fans at a sold out Aviva Stadium in Dublin Saturday.
Ilnicki, who said the three-game tour is a great opportunity to get Rugby Canada back on track, knew it would be a challenge heading in for Canada, ranked 18th in the world, facing an Irish team playing in front of a boisterous home crowd.
“I thought we played extremely well for 60 minutes,” Ilnicki told the Tribune. “Unfortunately, rugby is an 80-minute game and the reason Ireland is so good is because they can play really good rugby for 80 minutes. They have the depth and the talent for that. There were critical moments in the game that we lost focus and Ireland capitalized on those opportunities.”
Ranked fifth in the world, Ireland were coming off an historic first-every victory over the world’s No. 1 ranked team New Zealand last week in Chicago.
The hosts opened the scoring in the sixth minute with a converted try to take an early 7-0 lead. The teams then traded possession for the next 10 minutes, with Canada creating opportunities through phase play but were unable to further the threat with turnovers.
Ireland then forced the Canadians to play on their back foot for the better part of two minutes just outside their own tryline, eventually breaking through Canada’s defensive line for another converted try to go up 14-0.
However, Canada did well to stop any momentum the Irish had carried over from the last weekend’s win over the All Blacks, answering back with a try from Daniel Tailliferrer Hauman van der Merwe to cut the lead to 14-7.
With Canada now playing with a bit more belief, it wasn’t long before Taylor Paris touched down with a try of his own in the 30th minute. Gordy McRorie added his second conversion of the half and all of a sudden the match was tied 14-14.
It was Ireland, however, showing its class by scoring in the final 20 minutes to give the home side a comfortable victory. Canada is now winless in seven matches all-time against Ireland. They will now prepare for a Romanian side with the kickoff taking place on Saturday, Nov. 19 at 10 a.m.
“Despite the loss, we definitely got a lot out of that game,” Ilnicki said. “We know we can compete with tier one rugby nations and that’s a great confidence booster for our group of fresh guys in the squad. We have some tidying up to do with our general phase play and our forwards have done lots of work this week already to prepare for Romania.
“They’re going to be a big team and try to bully us, but we are up for the challenge. These next two games are very winnable if we put in the work and prepare well.”
Canadian rugby fans across the country were able to watch Saturday’s game live on CBC Sports, as well as online and through the CBC Sports app.
– With files from Rugby Canada