Rugby World Cup 2007
Australia labour to win over Canada
September 29, 2007
Drew Mitchell dives in to score one of his two tries against Canada
© Getty Images
Australia notched a comfortable 37-6 victory over Canada in their Rugby World Cup Pool B clash in Bordeaux. Wing Drew Mitchell scored twice as Australia ran in six tries against a spirited Canada in their final World Cup match in Pool B.
But for much of a lacklustre match it was anything but a free-flowing performance by the Aussies as they looked to post an impressive display ahead of their knockout clash against England next week.
Australia were looking to blast out a message to quarter-final opponents England when they took on Canada in their final World Cup match in Pool B.
George Smith captained a side which showed 11 changes from the team which beat Fiji earlier in the week. The Aussie reserves had a huge incentive as coach John Connolly had hinted that one or two positions for the England game, especially on the bench, were still up for grabs.
Defeat for Canada, meanwhile, would make them the first Canadian side to return home without at least one victory in the competition, having managed only a 12-12 draw against Japan.
They were playing for "pride and respect,'' according to captain and scrum-half Morgan Williams, who along with Rod Snow and Mike James intended to retire from international rugby after the game at the Chaban-Delmas stadium.
It was never likely to be a match of huge intensity and there was a carnival atmosphere as a brass band played, and supporters under cover of the stand threw down ponchos to those in the seats open to the rain which came down heavily.
On the field, Australia had the scoreboard ticking with the game barely a minute old, fly-half Julian Huxley kicking the penalty after Canada had infringed at a maul.
The Canadian pack, however, prides itself on its physicality and was holding its own with James and Dave Biddle, in particular, putting in big hits on the men in gold.
Aussie flanker Hugh McMeniman appeared to have burrowed over for the first try after 19 minutes. But he was adjudged by TV match official Lyndon Bray to have been held up by Williams, Mike Pye and Pat Riordan.
When the Canadian defence was finally breached in the 24th minute it came unusually from the ball being moved swiftly from a ruck to the left wing where prop Al Baxter was on hand to take the pass and bulldoze his way over.
The play for the main part was as dull as the Bordeaux weather and Australia's second try summed up the half with the Wallabies pack grinding forward, gradually inching their way to the Canadian line before hooker Adam Freier dropped on the ball.
It was not exactly flair-filled rugby but effective, even if Huxley did miss the most routine of conversions.
The best moment of the half came on the stroke of half-time when Lote Tuqiri went darting through but his floated pass was fumbled by wing Cameron Shepherd.
Canada finally managed to get some points on the board soon after the restart when James Pritchard slotted over a penalty.
But the quality of the fare on offer had not improved, the crowd's mood not improved by the mischievous tannoy announcer's impromptu introduction of Sacha Distel's `Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head.'
The boos, however, did liven up proceedings, as did captain George Smith whose quality shone above the rest and who caught the ball at the back of a lineout in the 51st minute and scythed through at an acute angle for an intelligent touchdown.
It took the Australians 18-3 clear and gave them a measure of comfort although Canada's riposte was swift with Pritchard's second penalty.
The gaps started to open up for the Australians as Canada began to tire and Drew Mitchell cashed in with a couple of tries in as many minutes.
The first came when he collected a kick forward, juggled with the ball but kept enough control to power over.
The second was the best try of the match, Tuqiri slicing through the Canada defence once more to allow Mitchell to twist and turn his way to a flowing touchdown.
Tuqiri's quality was also in evidence when he again turned provider to put full-back Chris Latham in for Australia's sixth try.
Australia (13) 37
Canada (0) 6
Australia: Latham, Shepherd, Tuqiri, Ashley-Cooper, Mitchell, Huxley, Cordingley, Holmes, Freier, Baxter, Sharpe, Chisholm, McMeniman, Smith, Lyons.
Replacements: Hardman, Shepherdson, Elsom, Waugh, Hoiles, Gregan, Giteau.
Canada: Van der Merwe, Mensah-Coker, Pyke, Daypuck, Pritchard, Monro, Williams, Snow, Riordan, Thiel, Tait, James, Yukes, Biddle, Stephen.
Replacements: Carpenter, D. Pletch, M. Pletch, Burak, Webb, Fairhurst, Trenkel.
Referee: C White (RFU)