Rugby World Cup 2003
Wales start with win over Canada
October 12, 2003
Wales fly-half Iestyn Harris produced a faultless kikcing display
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Wales got their World Cup campaign off to a winning start with a comprehensive 41-10 triumph over Canada. Steve Hansen's side notched five tries with Iestyn Harris producing a faultless kicking display.
With New Zealand expected to cruise through to the quarter-finals, the battle between Wales, Canada, Italy and Tonga for that second place will be fierce. But with Harris oozing creativity in the loose and impeccable with the boot, Wales earned a first victory and, in scoring five tries, an important first bonus point.
The former rugby league ace, who this week confirmed he spurned a lucrative offer to switch back to the 13-man code, landed 16 points from two penalties and the five conversions that followed scores from Sonny Parker, Gareth Cooper, Mark Jones, captain Colin Charvis and Gareth Thomas.
Harris, who ended the game at fly-half, assumed responsibility for turning the momentum in Wales' favour after Canada had placed them under early pressure. That was not helped by the loss to the sin-bin of Charvis after only eight minutes for a late tackle on Canadian fly-half Bob Ross.
The world's longest-serving Test player had earlier given the Maple Leafs the lead from a drop goal but try as they might, Canada could not make their numerical advantage count. And as they pressed, Harris hit them on the break, scything clear down the left to beat two men and, in one fell swoop, release the pressure.
The scrambled defence briefly held the Welsh at bay, but with a clear overlap out wide Harris and fly-half Ceri Sweeney combined to send Parker over in the corner. Harris landed the tough conversion to set in motion a faultless display of seven from seven.
The two sides met in November in a far closer encounter, and a decade ago Canada completed their famous 26-24 win over Wales in Cardiff. But as Harris stamped his authority on proceedings, the chances of a similar upset 10 years on were non-existent.
The Italians yesterday took the decision to chase tries in the hope - vain as it transpired - of garnering a bonus point against the All Blacks. Wales, though, clearly had no plans to waste kickable penalty opportunities as Harris slotted his two penalties.
It was a decision eased by Wales' penetration in the loose and as the former rugby league ace picked holes in the Canadian defence, so their confidence grew. The Welsh, wearing their changed white strip, began to show quick and clever hands through the threequarters and that led to Cooper's touchdown.
Kevin Morgan flicked the ball wide to winger Thomas, who stepped back in from the lines before scrum-half Cooper picked up and scuttled over for his third Test try. With half an hour remaining, and the game seemingly over as a contest, coach Steve Hansen made his first change and introduced Robert Sidoli into the second row in place of Brent Cockbain.
While that did little to spark any life into the crowd, Harris suddenly burst through, Parker ran a clever line and winger Mark Jones bagged Wales' third try. Charvis then added a fourth, burrowing over as the Canadian pack struggled to defend on their own line, to claim the crucial bonus point.
The Canadians, who had vowed to leave the match having done themselves proud whatever the result, did manage a consolation score of their own.
Parker was sin-binned for killing the ball with Canada in touching distance of the line and with much of the 24,874 crowd urging them on, replacement prop Kevin Tkatchuk drove low to finally register a consolation.
It was a score met with a mixture of relief and delight on the Canadian bench - but there was still time for a fifth Welsh try, and it was another delightful running score.
Sidoli beat his man, looped a pass over his shoulder to Dwayne Peel who in turn flicked it wide for Thomas to cut back in and score.
Fittingly, it was Harris who made the last contribution, sealing the win with his fifth conversion.