Canada shows promise in loss to Italy

RICHARD MAUNTAH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:00 AM ET

TORONTO - Canada's national rugby team gave local fans a lot to like Friday.

And while the team lost 25-16 to Italy in its test match at BMO field, it did prove it could compete with one of the sport's improving nations.

Canada, in the midst of a three-match summer series, was even with its guests in some areas of the game. Unfortunately, its forwards were manhandled by the bigger, more cohesive Italian pack, who wore them down noticeably in the latter stages of the match.

Canada was actually the sharper team in the first half. An early penalty was converted by fullback James Pritchard to open the scoring. Italy equalled that on a penalty kick by Australian-born Kris Burton 12 minutes in. Canada did suffer a blow 15 minutes in when veteran prop Hubert Buydens was injured, hurting a pack that was already being dominated by the Italians.

Burton converted another penalty to make it 6-3 but Pritchard answered with a sensational kick from 50 metres out to level the score at 6-6.

Canada got its only try 33 minutes in when a kick by Pritchard down the middle of the field was muffed by Tito Tebaldi, who tried to pass off but instead handed it right to Conor Trainor, who darted the final 25 metres to the middle of the posts for a 13-6 lead. A late penalty converted by Burton sent the teams to the locker room with Canada up 13-9.

The Italians then took over the match in the second half. Burton cut the lead to 13-12 early, then the Italians got their only try of the match on a high maul off a lineout when they pushed the Canadians a full 10 metres to the touch line with Tommaso D'Apice carrying the ball to the touch line.

Pritchard did cut the lead to 19-16 just a couple of minutes later off a penalty but Canada was unable to mount a sustained drive which challenged the Italians at any point of the remaining 15 minutes.

Burton kicked two more penalties to finish the scoring.

It was the fifth win in seven matches all-time for Italy against Canada. Pritchard moved to second on Canada's career scoring list with 424 points. He only trails legend Gareth Rees, who is now the team's manager. Canada travels to Burnaby, B.C. to finish the series next Saturday against Georgia.


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