Canada qualify for RWC 2011
Canada has become the first nation to emerge through the global qualifying process and confirm its place at Rugby World Cup 2011, following a 41-18 victory over USA in the second leg of their play-off in Edmonton on Saturday.
The hosts had gone into the second leg needing to overturn a six-point deficit after losing the first encounter 12-6 in Charleston last weekend, USA fly half Mike Hercus kicking four penalties in a tight affair at Blackbaud Stadium.
Canada’s emphatic win at Ellerslie Rugby Park gives them an 47-30 aggregate victory to see them qualify for Rugby World Cup 2011 as Americas 1 to join hosts New Zealand, France, Tonga and the Asian qualifier in Pool A.
USA must now regroup to face Uruguay in a home and away play-off to determine the Americas 2 qualifier, who will join Australia, Ireland, Italy and Europe 2 in Pool C. The loser of that tie will have another chance to qualify through the cross-continental final place play-off in 2010.
The Canadians, who have played at every Rugby World Cup to date, had moved ahead on aggregate by the 25th minute with James Pritchard, who had already kicked a penalty, crossing for the opening try after some good work by the impressive centre DTH van der Merwe.
'Back on the big stage'
With Canada leading 10-0 after Pritchard added the conversion, things got worse for USA within a minute when centre Paul Emerick was sent off by referee Alan Lewis. The hosts made the most of their man advantage with Adam Kleeberger and Justin Mensah-Coker crossing for tries to make it 24-0 at half time.
The Eagles needed to score first if they were to have any hopes of salvaging an unlikely victory against a Canadian outfit playing an attacking brand of rugby. Hercus did just that with a 51st minute penalty, but that was cancelled out by a try from the hosts’ scrum half Ed Fairhurst.
Wing Kevin Swiryn crossed for the Eagles’ first try just before the hour mark, a score converted by Hercus and the fly half then kicked a penalty to cut the deficit to 31-13 on the day – 37-25 on aggregate – but there was to be no comeback with Canada crossing for a fifth try within minutes.
Van der Merwe had been exploiting the space created by Emerick’s sending off and creating opportunities for Canada and was finally rewarded for his impressive display when the centre crossed for his side’s sixth try of the afternoon in the 69th minute.
Canada increased their advantage when wing Matt Evans touched down, before USA captain Todd Clever scored a consolation try five minutes from time. It was the Canadians and a crowd of around 5,000 who were celebrating come the final whistle.
“It was a huge win at home against the USA and everything we do now is building to the next World Cup,” said Canada captain Pat Riordan. “We are back on the big stage and it is really exciting, it means we can plan autumn tours knowing we don’t have to go to Uruguay. The last World Cup we got close a couple of times and we have got two years to get ready.”
His counterpart Clever added: “We let them have a sniff and they took it. They fed off our mistakes and it’s very disappointing to lose like that. This feeling is fresh in our mind now and we have made a promise to ourselves that we will use this to fuel our preparations for Uruguay. We can either let this get us down or make us better, and we’ve all vowed to do the latter.”