Canada Misses Opportunity

Jebb Sinclair Canada Scotland RugbyWhat should have been celebrated as an overdue Tier 1 scalp for the Canadians was instead overshadowed by a dubious decision late in the game. With the home side on attack and poised to hand James Pritchard a potential winning shot at goal, referee Mike Fraser somehow found cause to refer an incident to the TMO, and then astoundingly dished out a red card to Jebb Sinclair. The big forward had trampled over poor Ruaridh Jackson on a big run up the middle, but instead of being rewarded he was sent off for what Fraser deemed to be ‘leading with the elbow’.

It was a ridiculous call, an absolute howler, and not the first of the match, and even the Scottish announcers were incredulous at the decision. For most it was perfectly legitimate and unworthy of even a penalty. Given that the IRB have since absolved Sinclair of further punishment, it seems that the Canadians can feel rightly aggrieved. Fraser has been under the microscope before for questionable refereeing decisions, and one surmises that it might be a good while before he takes charge of another international.

Erroneous officiating aside, the match was still there for the taking, had Canada been more accurate. Jeff Hassler knocked on a simple pass early in the match that would certainly have led to a try, and Harry Jones botched a clean break up the middle when he failed to find a screaming James Pritchard who was wide open in support with the line at his mercy. When Hassler finally crossed to take the lead, they shut down mentally and failed to clear their lines, allowing Grant Gilchrist to cross almost immediately.

Gordon McRorie sliced a box kick, normally a strength of his, late on which led to Greig Laidlaw’s winning penalty goal. It was hard luck and unfortunate for the new halfback playing against his home country, but Canada were still in the match, and yet still even after Sinclair’s wrongful dismissal. A multi-phased attack went up the left flank and looked hopeful of yielding a score, but for reserve hooker Ray Barkwill to attempt an ill-advised miss pass when moving the ball through the hands, or at worst holding on to the ball, would have more than sufficed. Instead the ball drifted into touch and the chance was lost.

Scotland were dreadful. They were slow on attack, lazy in defense, and just generally disinterested. Laidlaw did nothing special but kicked accurately and kicked his goals. Blair Cowan redeemed his poor debut against the Americans by earning a couple turnovers at the breakdown, but exceptional play was near on invisible from the visitors.

As it is Canada will rue their missed opportunity, but will surely be heavy favourites despite travelling to Sacramento to face an out-of-form Eagles side. The Scots head south to play an unheralded but dangerous Pumas side on Friday in Córdoba before flying to Port Elizabeth where an ever greater menace awaits.

CANADA 17 vs 19 SCOTLAND
Saturday, June 14, 18:00 GMT, Toronto

SCORING
03 mins – G. Laidlaw pen 0-3
21 mins – J. Pritchard pen 3-3
24 mins – J. Hassler try 8-3
27 mins – G. Gilchrist try 8-8
28 mins – G. Laidlaw con 8-10
38 mins – G. Laidlaw pen 8-13
43 mins – J. Pritchard pen 11-13
51 mins – J. Pritchard pen 14-13
61 mins – S. Hogg pen 14-16
70 mins – J. Pritchard pen 17-16
72 mins – G. Laidlaw pen 17-19

CARDS
76 mins – J. Sinclair red (foul play)

CANADA
J. Pritchard; J. Hassler, C. Hearn, N. Blevins (C. Braid 63), T. Paris (D.T.H. van der Merwe 44); H. Jones, P. Mack (G. McRorie 70); H. Buydens (A. Tiedemann 54), A. Carpenter (R. Barkwill 59), J. Marshall (J. Ilnicki 78); T. Hotson, J. Cudmore; J. Sinclair, J. Moonlight, T. Ardron (capt.).

SCOTLAND
S. Hogg; S. Maitland, S. Lamont, P. Horne, T. Visser (M. Evans 70); F. Russell (R. Jackson 62 {G. Hart 76}), G. Laidlaw (capt.); G. Reid, S. Lawson (K. Bryce 70), M. Low (G. Cross 47); R. Gray, G. Gilchrist; A. Strokosch (B. Cowan 31), K. Brown (K. Low 47), J. Beattie.

Referee: M. Fraser (NZRU)
Assistants: S. Berry (SARU) & N. Ricono (USAR)
TMO: D. Ardrey (USAR)

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