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Pritchard sets Canadian mark in Rugby loss to Ireland

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The Canadian Press
6/15/2013 10:33:15 PM
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TORONTO -- Two Canadian rugby records were rewritten Saturday night at BMO Field.

But the lustre of the accomplishments was lost amid Canada's disappointing 40-14 loss to Ireland in a Test match against a side that proved far too dominant.

Record No. 1 saw James Pritchard become the all-time leading scorer for Canada, in front of record No. 2: the fans. The game drew a crowd of 20,396, the largest ever for a rugby game in this country.

Both Pritchard and the Canadian fans, however, walked away disappointed.

"It was nice that it happened, to get it out of the way," Pritchard said of the record. "But this whole week has been concentrating on winning the game of rugby. That comes first for me. It's a disappointing way to get that record, when we put a disappointing performance out on the field."

The Australian-born Pritchard, who was making his 49th appearance for Canada, came into the game needing just seven points to overtake former captain Gareth Rees' national record of 491 points. He scored nine with his boot, all of them in the first half.

Tyler Ardron scored the lone try for a 13th-ranked Canadian team that remains without a victory against No. 8 Ireland.

"We're very disappointed," said Canadian coach Kieran Crowley. "We had a couple of things we wanted to play but we couldn't do it under the pressure they put us on.

"But as far as the guys, they dug deep. In today's game, you can get beaten with a score like that, but there wasn't a helluva lot in it. They were obviously too dominant for us, because we never looked like scoring again after we scored that try."

Ireland -- which won despite having lost 11 of its top players to the British & Irish Lions -- got three tries from Fergus McFadden, plus one apiece from Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave and Tommy O'Donnell.

Ian Madigan had six points on converts, while Paddy Jackson added four for Ireland, which against Canada is 5-0-1.

Despite the loss, the Canadian players raved about the fans, most of whom were dressed in the red and black of Canada, but a good chunk also clad in Irish green.

"We've never come across a crowd like this in Canada," Pritchard said. "The boys were excited to get out there and play, and if you had gone into that dressing room today, you would have seen how disappointed everyone is, because we wanted to put on a good performance. Everyone in there felt we let the 20,000-plus people down out there tonight."

As is their routine, the tight-knit Canadian team walked off the field after warmup as a unit, one man's hand on the next man's shoulder. They stood arm in arm swaying to the national anthem. After the final whistle, they jogged around the pitch saluting the fans.

The Canadians were coming off a victory last week over No. 12 Tonga. They'd also recently beaten No. 14 Fiji and the United States.

Canada held its own for the first half Saturday as the Irish led just 12-9 at halftime.

Ardron muscled in for Canada's try off a ruck six minutes into the second half to give the Canadians a 14-12 lead, but it would be short-lived. Cave's sprint from about 40 metres straight down the middle was the first of three tries the visitors would score in much the same fashion.

"We were out to win that game, that's what I told the boys," Canada's captain Aaron Carpenter said. "We're tired of being second-fiddle and coming close and being happy with coming close. We want to win, and that's what we went out to do today."

Canada has tied Ireland once -- 27-27 in Markham, Ont., in 2000. Ireland won 25-6 in Vancouver in 2009, the last time they met.

The fans didn't even see Ireland's best Sunday. The 11 missing were with the Lions, who are currently on tour in Australia. Those 11 have a combined 528 caps and 834 points. Six Irish players earned their first caps Saturday.

"I'm thrilled for the guys," said Irish coach Les Kiss. "Three weeks ago we got together and put a plan together, the way the guys went about their business right through the back end was fantastic, and for Fergus to knock down in injury time to give himself three tries epitomized what we're about."

Saturday's Ireland starting 15 had a combined cap count of 191, in contrast the Canadian starters have 292 combined caps. But the entire Ireland squad is filled by professional teams, while only seven of Canada's starting 15 play professionally.

NOTES: The Canadians leave Sunday for Japan and their Pacific Nations Cup finale on Wednesday in Nagoya. ... Trimble earned his 50th cap for Ireland. ... The game was the third Canada has played at BMO Field. The Canadians will host the U.S. in a World Cup qualifier on Aug. 24. ... Both Canada's women's rugby team and women's field hockey team attended the game.

James Pritchard (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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The rankings remain unchanged at the top as Canada holds firm at 15th.
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