Rugby World Cup 2007
Wales survive scare against Canada
September 9, 2007
Colin Charvis dives for the line to score for Wales
© Getty Images
Wales bounced back from a first half deficit to power past Canada 42-17 in their Pool B clash at La Beaujoire in Nantes. Gareth Jenkins was indebted to the quality of his bench as Wales survived a huge scare to open their World Cup with a bonus-point victory over the Canucks.
Jenkins was forced to cash in his insurance policy and introduce big guns Stephen Jones and Gareth Thomas just five minutes into the second half after Canada scored their third try for a 17-9 lead. Wales had looked in control for most of the opening period but were stung by a passionate and committed Canadian performance, which brought tries for Jamie Cudmore, Craig Culpan and Morgan Williams.
Wales had been careless too, but the introduction of Jones for James Hook and Thomas at full-back changed the game on a dime. Wales ran in five tries in the final half hour as their superior fitness paid dividends.
Jones had not played for four months after suffering a hip-flexor injury but any debate about whether Jones or Hook should start at fly-half in next weekend's pivotal clash with Australia was settled immediately.
Jones played a central role as Wales worked two tries for Shane Williams and scores each for Sonny Parker, Alun-Wyn Jones and Colin Charvis. Canada left to a standing ovation and neither their spirit nor endeavour deserved such a heavy defeat.
Jenkins, on the other hand, will have breathed a huge sigh of relief. It was, after all, only his fifth win in 17 Tests as head coach. And as the flak was flying around last month, he urged the public to "judge me on the World Cup''.
Wales were in relative control for most of the first half and moved 9-0 up with three penalties from Hook as Canada struggled to compete at the breakdown. But the Canadians, targeting a place in the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time since 1991, had given early indication of their intent.
Full-back Mike Pyke beat three tackles in a powerful run deep into Welsh territory but Canada's Edinburgh fly-half Ander Monro missed with his drop-goal attempt. The Canadians refused to lose heart as Wales edged clear and hit them with the perfect response after another powerful break from Dth Van der Merwe down the left.
Alix Popham missed the first tackle and Van der Merwe carried Canada to within touching distance of the Welsh line. After three thrusts forward, Cudmore drove over the line for the opening try. James Pritchard missed the conversion but Canada were almost in again just a minute later after Parker threw a loose pass that Van der Merwe could not quite hold onto. Had he done so, the try was on.
Canadian tails were up. Williams, the captain and veteran scrum-half, spotted lock Ian Gough was the only defender patrolling the left wing and took a quick tap penalty. But Gough recovered well, Williams' offload went to ground and Wales counter-attacked. After a strong run from Tom Shanklin, Popham linked well with Matthew Rees, whose charge for the line was blocked. It seemed a Welsh try was inevitable.
But Hook's pass was picked off by Culpan and the centre sprinted 90 metres to score Canada's second try. As Wales left the field one of their 20,000 following bellowed: "Taxi for Jenkins''. Canada made an explosive start to the second period and once again Wales were forced to defend their own line.
Wales withstood huge charges from the Canadian pack but Williams sneaked through a gap to score his side's third try. Although Pritchard missed the conversion, Wales were two scores behind at 17-9. Jenkins had no option but to play his get out of jail free card.
Thomas came on at full-back for Morgan and and Jones, who has not played for four months, replaced Hook. The fresh injection of energy and experience soon paid dividends as the Canadians began to tire.
Jones was involved immediately only to be held up over the line after an attack from Shanklin but soon sent Parker over for Wales' first try. Shane Williams blew a golden opportunity after spilling the ball as he counter-attacked from under Wales' posts when the try was there for the taking.
And was denied again by a foot in touch after Peel and Jenkins had combined well. But the Canadians were struggling to live with the pace of a chaotic second half and when Monro scuffed a clearance, Alun-Wyn Jones was on hand to score.
As the game broke up, Wales took advantage of the space and Williams scored twice before Colin Charvis rounded off the great escape.
Wales (9) 42
Canada (12) 17
Wales: Morgan; M Jones, Shanklin, Parker, S Williams; Hook, Peel (capt); G Jenkins, M Rees, A Jones, Gough, AW Jones, J Thomas, M Williams, Popham.
Replacements: T Rhys Thomas, D Jones, Owen, Charvis, Phillips, S Jones, G Thomas.
Canada: Pyke; Van der Merwe, Culpan, Spicer, Pritchard; Monro, Williams (capt); Snow, Riordan, Thiel, Tait, James, Cudmore, Biddle, Stephen.
Replacements: Carpenter, D Pletch, M Pletch, Burak, Yukes, Fairhurst, Smith.
Referee: A Rolland (Ireland)