Canada Falls To Wales In Lopsided Affair
In their first test match since October 2019, Canada fell to Wales 68-12 at the famed Principality Stadium. Wales ran in 10 tries from Tomos Williams (2), James Botham, Jonah Holmes (2), Nicky Smith, Elliot Dee, Will Rowlands, and Taine Basham (2) while Connor Sheedy added 14 points from his boot with Ben Thomas picking up 4 himself. Canada received tries from Kainoa Lloyd and Cooper Coats with Peter Nelson going 1 for 2 on his conversion attempts.
The match did not get off to a great start for Wales. Leigh Halfpenny was playing in his 100th test, but suffered a knee injury on his first touch of the match just 90 seconds into the game. Canada then jumped out to a 5-0 lead after a brilliant play by Coats caught the Welsh defense sleeping on a quick tap. A great pass from Ben LeSage put Kainoa Lloyd away in the corner for the game’s opening try.
Wales quickly marched back up the pitch and Williams dotted down the first Wales try of the day. Sheedy’s conversion gave Wales a 7-5 lead and the floodgates would open.
Despite the lopsided score line, which was a surprise to no one, there were a handful of positives in the match. Canada started the match being incredibly competitive at the breakdown. Quinn Ngawati set the tone early as he created a huge turnover at a breakdown just 90 seconds into the game. Josh Larsen and Lucas Rumball also created some turnovers for Canada at the breakdown.
Coming off the bench Don Carson and Michael Smith were also credited with turnovers throughout the match. The success in the breakdown began to waver as the game progressed. Wales’ fitness level helped them gain the edge at the breakdown as it got to the later stages of the game. Regardless, Canada should be pleased with how they fared. In the end both Canada and Wales were credited with 9 turnovers, so they matched up well here.
The physicality in the tackles were also there. Canada tackled at 84% on the day with 172 tackles made. Rumball, Conor Keys, Andrew Quattrin, and LeSage made the biggest impacts registering 19, 16, 15, and 14 tackles respectively.
Speaking of LeSage, he was easily Canada’s man of the match. LeSage led the way on both sides of the ball. On defense, he made tackle after tackle, was a force in the breakdown, and had an interception. With the ball in hand, LeSage did well to facilitate the offense. He picked up two try assists as he set up both Lloyd and Coats.
Additionally, LeSage had a brilliant grubber kick that Lloyd chased down and initially looked to ground the ball, but it was sadly ruled a knock on instead. LeSage finished with 44m carried on the day, which was the most of all Canadian players.
LeSage and Ngawati were certainly a bright spot in the game. Both players looked great on the defensive side of the ball, with strong tackles and being nuisances in the breakdown. This was Ngawati’s first cap and he was brilliant throughout. He started strong with some great breakdown work and that effort continued throughout the match. Alongside LeSage, there is little doubt that this is the Canadian centre combination of the future.
Another player that made a huge impact in his debut was Coats. Coats was a late addition to the squad after the injury to Spencer Jones. He was slotted in at fullback and made a big impact in the game. Coats had the heads-up quick tap that led to Lloyd’s try.
“The Sevens in me saw the opportunity. They were all really flat and the ball had gone past where their defensive line was. I knew I had the backs outside of me, so I decided to go quickly and fortunately Kai got it down in the corner”, said Coats of the play that got Canada off to a dream start.
Later in the match, Coats helped the backline execute a brilliant set piece play that came off like a training run to score his first career test try.
“We constructed some nice opportunities from our set pieces. Cooper scoring off a move that we have worked is really pleasing for the coaches and the players. It builds trust and confidence. I think we need to take that into next week”, said Head coach Kingsley Jones of Canada’s second try.
Coats was making his test debut as was Ngawati. It would be difficult to ask for better debuts for the two of them. Jones was impressed with all the debutantes on the day “I think every single one who had their first test today stood out,” said Jones following the match. He would go on to specifically highlight Coats, Ngawati, Smith, and Carson’s performances.
Canada faced an uphill battle going into this match. Wales put out a strong side, they have had limited time training together, and were missing plenty of players. Despite that, the lads put in a great effort that can’t be questioned and were able to identify some positives as they build toward the Rugby World Cup 2023 qualifiers in September.
Canada will take on England at Twickenham next Saturday at 10am to wrap up their UK tour.