10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
CANADA 6 IRELAND 25, Thunderbird Stadium, Vancouver
Scorers: Canada: Pens: James Pritchard 2
Ireland: Tries: Barry Murphy, Ian Whitten, Tony Buckley; Cons: Ian Keatley 2; Pens: Ian Keatley 2
Grand Slam-winning coach Declan Kidney took the opportunity to blood some new players in Vancouver, including Mike Ross and Ryan Caldwell off the replacements bench.
In sunny and humid conditions, a crowd of 7,280 watched the Irish grind out a hard-fought win which was not certain until the final quarter when newcomer Ian Whitten and giant prop Tony Buckley scored tries.
Showing an improvement from their 55-0 November defeat in Limerick, Canada remained in contention until the 63rd minute when centre Whitten, the youngest of Ireland's first-timers at 21, burst through for their second try.
Man-of-the-match Ian Keatley, who grew into his role at number 10 and slotted some impressive place-kicks, added the conversion for a 20-6 lead and there was no way back for the hosts.
Certainly the short preparation time and personnel changes played a part in the tourists failing to catch fire, but tour captain Rory Best and his team-mates will not wish to dwell on an off-colour display.
With most of their Grand Slam squad otherwise engaged with the Lions and Leinster, Ireland were a much-changed outfit and Buckley was the only survivor from the big win over Canada at Thomond Park.
Canada, building for July's Rugby World Cup qualifiers against the USA, gave flanker Chauncey O'Toole a first cap and the hosts were definitely keen in impress in their first Test since the autumn.
Keatley was off target with his first penalty attempt and while the early exchanges were pretty physical, neither side could get themselves out of first gear and play was blighted by handling errors and lacklustre attacks.
Big Canadian wingers DTH van der Merwe and Dean van Camp looked dangerous whenever the ball came their way, but the home side lacked a clinical edge.
Ireland's first try, on 18 minutes, came out of nothing. Keatley hoisted up a garryowen, Canada failed to deal with it and the ball broke for another debutant Darren Cave to chip to the right corner for Barry Murphy to gather and touch down.
It was Murphy's first Test try in his second senior appearance and the Limerick man put in a solid shift on the right wing.
Keatley converted but Ireland continued to lack fluidity and the Kieran Crowley-coached Canucks were making them work hard for their possession.
Canadian full-back James Pritchard made it 7-3 for half-time with a pinpoint penalty after good work from the forwards and busy scrum half Ed Fairhurst.
Canada had a number of UK-based players in their squad, including Glasgow prop Kevin Tkachuk, and they looked the better side during the opening stages of the second half.
With Ireland struggling for decent possession and territory, Pritchard made it a one-point game after Ian Dowling was pinged for not rolling away in the tackle.
Ireland's last visit to Canada, back in 2000 when Bob Casey won his most recent cap before this game, saw them struggle to a 27-27 draw.
But Canada's hopes of a shock result were left dangling after Keatley kicked two penalties around the hour mark - the second after Canadian flanker Adam Kleeberger was sin-binned for killing ruck ball.
Warming to the task, the Irish started to click and three minutes later they turned defence into attack to score a length-of-the-field breakaway try.
Van der Merwe lacked support after a surging break through the midfield and Ireland ran the ball back with purpose.
Caldwell galloped forward out of the 22, Niall Ronan then countered and dummied his way into the Canadian half before Cave's delayed pass put Whitten over in the corner.
Keatley added the extras and Ireland snuffed out their final try, 11 minutes from the end.
Mick O'Driscoll was stopped just short of the line before a quick feed from Peter Stringer saw Buckley squeeze over from close range.
Other try-scoring chances were missed as the Canadians tired. Whitten knocked on with the line just metres out and lively replacement Eoin Reddan sparked a late push for a fourth score that never came.
This Irish squad, a mix of youth and experience, know they are much better players than this performance suggests and they will be eager for a return to top form against the US Eagles in Santa Clara, California next Sunday.
TIME LINE: 8 minutes - Ireland penalty: missed by Ian Keatley - 0-0; 18 mins - Ireland try: Barry Murphy - 0-5; conversion: Ian Keatley - 0-7; 38 mins - Canada penalty: James Pritchard - 3-7; Half-time - Canada 3 Ireland 7; 43 mins - Canada penalty: James Pritchard - 6-7; 57 mins - Ireland penalty: Ian Keatley - 6-10; 60 mins - Canada sin-binning: Adam Kleeberger (killing ruck ball); 61 mins - Ireland penalty: Ian Keatley - 6-13; 63 mins - Ireland try: Ian Whitten - 6-18; conversion: Ian Keatley - 6-20; 69 mins - Ireland try: Tony Buckley - 6-25; conversion: missed by Ian Keatley - 6-25; Full-time - Canada 6 Ireland 25
CANADA: James Pritchard (Bedford Blues); Dean van Camp (Velox Valhallians), Ciaran Hearn (Castaway Wanderers), Ryan Smith (Calgary Irish), DTH van der Merwe (James Bay AA); David Spicer (University of Victoria), Ed Fairhurst (Cornish Pirates); Kevin Tkachuk (Glasgow Warriors), Pat Riordan (University of Victoria) (capt), Scott Franklin (Cornish Pirates), Tyler Hotson (UBC Old Boy Ravens), Mike Burak (Cornish Pirates), Chauncey O'Toole (Castaway Wanderers), Adam Kleeberger (University of Victoria), Aaron Carpenter (Brantford Harlequins).
Replacements used: Andrew Tiedemann (University of Victoria) for Franklin, Jebb Sinclair (Castaway Wanderers) for Carpenter (both half-time), Ander Monro (Colorno) for van Camp (54 mins), Luke Tait (Stade Montois) for Hotson, Nanyak Dala (Castaway Wanderers) for O'Toole (both 58), Phil Mack (James Bay AA) for Fairhurst (66). Not used: Sean Michael Stephen (Plymouth Albion).
IRELAND: Gavin Duffy (Galwegians/Connacht); Barry Murphy (UL Bohemians/Munster), Darren Cave (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Ian Whitten (Ballymena/Ulster), Ian Dowling (Shannon/Munster); Ian Keatley (Galwegians/Connacht), Peter Stringer (Shannon/Munster); Tom Court (Malone/Ulster), Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster) (capt), Tony Buckley (Shannon/Munster), Bob Casey (London Irish), Mick O'Driscoll (Cork Constitution/Munster), John Muldoon (Galwegians/Connacht), Niall Ronan (Shannon/Munster), Denis Leamy (Cork Constitution/Munster).
Replacements used: Mike Ross (Harlequins) for Court, Ryan Caldwell (Dungannon/Ulster) for Casey (both 54 mins), Eoin Reddan (London Wasps) for Stringer, Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster) for Muldoon (both 71). Not used: Sean Cronin (Buccaneers/Connacht), Niall O'Connor (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Denis Hurley (Cork Constitution/Munster).
Referee: Chris White (England)
|Canada Score Card|
|Ireland Score Card|