Canucks have to try harder

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:11 AM ET

The road to the Rugby World Cup passed through the Twin Elm Rugby Park yesterday.

Though Canada defeated Portugal 42-12 in the first full exhibition test between the two countries, not even the Canadians were happy with the way things turned out.

Canada, ranked 13th in the world, scored four tries in the first 15 minutes of the second half to break what had been a pretty feisty effort by the 21st-ranked Portugese, who are going to the World Cup -- set for France next month -- for the first time.

EXPECTATIONS HIGHER

"I think we played just well enough to win. Our expectations were a little higher," said Mike James, Canada's captain, who plays for Stade Francais in France and had his photo taken (which included donning a beret) with some French fans after the game.

"Traditionally, we're not used to so much ball.

"I think we had it so much we didn't know what to do with it. Usually, we're playing a lot of defence and scrambling for points and possession.

"We did some things well and some things poorly. I think we gave the coach lots of ammunition for training."

"We're not going into panic mode because of this result. I'm happy the guys won, but we're not satisfied with this result and we know we still have work to do," said Canadian coach Rick Suggitt. "We have to iron out some rough spots."

BRILLIANT AT TIMES

Canada had its share of handling problems in front of a 2,500 fans, but also some brilliant play at times.

The Canadians got a pair of tries from DTH Van der Merwe, the second early in the second half on a blazing run down the left side after a great pass by James Pritchard. That brought Van der Merwe's total to five tries in two games against Portugal (he played for a Canada Selects team against Portugal "A" last weekend) as he makes a strong case to make the team at fullback or wing.

"I wasn't really expecting the ball, but Pritch threw me a great 'cut-out' pass and I just had to get it over the line," said the 21-year-old, who was born in South Africa and moved to Canada with his family in 2003, settling in Regina (he's now a Canadian citizen).

Van der Merwe (whose initials stand for Daniel Tailliferre Hauman) scored late in the first half and early in the second half to send the Canadians on their way.

"I definitely wanted to play well today given the opportunity," said Van der Merwe.

Mike Pyke, Adam Kleeberger, David Spicer and Justin Mensah-Coker also scored tries for Canada.

Portugal scores came on an intercept try of 60 metres by Diogo Mateus -- which put Portugal up 7-5 early in the game with the conversion -- and Jose Pinto in the waning minutes.

"The first 15 minutes in the second half were a disaster," said Portugese coach Tomaz Morais, whose team is made up of amateurs, a few of them doctors and lawyers, which often makes scheduling practices difficult.

"We had no concentration, lots of gaps on our defence and not good in set pieces."

Canada opens the World Cup Sept. 9 against Wales.


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