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Canada 17 Scotland 19: Win carries cost

Their sighs of relief might drown out the sound of the engines as they fly south to Buenos Aires today, but Scotland will leave North America with an unbeaten record after adding this scrappy and workmanlike win to victory over the USA last weekend.

Canada's Jebb Sinclair, left, gets to grips to with Scotland No 8 Johnnie Beattie Photograph: SNS
Canada's Jebb Sinclair, left, gets to grips to with Scotland No 8 Johnnie Beattie Photograph: SNS

To call it an ugly triumph would understate the achievement on many levels. Putting aside the error and penalty counts they racked up, Scotland suffered a horrendous catalogue of injuries, the most alarming being to flanker Al Strokosch, who left the pitch in a neck-brace and was immediately taken to hospital. The official bulletin afterwards was that he had gone there as a precaution, which is usually a promising sign.

Scotland also dodged a very large bullet in the closing stages of the match. Clinging to their lead, they conceded a penalty near their 22, a simple chance for Canada full-back James Pritchard. However, after the intervention of the television match official, American referee Mike Fraser reviewed footage of a brutal and illegal tackle by Canada's Jebb Sinclair on Ruaridh Jackson and showed the flanker a red card.

Of more use to Scotland was the fact that the penalty was reversed and the danger cleared. And so it was that they stumbled gratefully over the line a few minutes later.

Sinclair was not the only Canadian who looked fired up yesterday. The hosts had lost 34-25 to Japan in Vancouver last weekend and it was clear from the off that they were out to make amends. Scotland were caught in the backlash and can consider themselves fortunate to come out of it with any sort of pride intact.

They were turned over too easily in contact, but more alarming still was the way they made it easy for Canada. Against the USA the Scots butchered a heap of chances; the concern here was that they created so few. They gifted possession to Canada far too easily, squandered promising positions with knock-ons and passes into touch, and generally made a dog's breakfast of too many straightforward tasks.

In fairness, they also showed decent character to hang in there to the end. They lost their entire starting back row to injuries: in addition to Strokosch's neck problem, Johnnie Beattie injured his knee while Kelly Brown went off with a ripped bicep. By the end, replacement hooker Kevin Bryce had made an improbable Test debut on the blindside flank.

Beattie's loss was a real blow, as the Castres-bound forward was one of the few shining lights in the Scotland performance. Greig Laidlaw also put in an impressive shift, even finishing the game at fly-half after Jackson had been removed on account of Sinclair's forearm smash.

Grant Gilchrist scored his first Scotland try and Stuart Hogg continued his rehabilitation with a lively display that included a mesmerising 60-metre break near the end that would have brought a try if he had off-loaded rather than attempt to cut inside the last defender.

Laidlaw's contribution also included a 100% kicking return. He stuck over the first of his penalties in the third minute, and at that point everything looked perfectly ship-shape for Scotland. However, it was not long before the ship started to list, and Canada's confidence started to grow.

James Pritchard levelled the scores with a matching penalty at the end of the first quarter, but by then it was clear something was awry in the Scotland defence. Their line had been broken twice as Canada's strike runners gave their guests a lesson in opportunism. There was a rising sense that one of those breaks would tell sooner than later.

It turned out to be sooner. Three minutes after Pritchard's opening penalty, Canada centre Ciaran Hearn shot through a gap between Sean Lamont and Scott Lawson, and although he was brought down by Hogg in the Scotland 22 he still managed to get his pass away to Ospreys wing Jeff Hassler who had the momentum to crash through a last-gasp tackle by Tim Visser, and just enough of it still to stretch over for a try.

In fairness, the Scots did respond well, with Gilchrist crashing over for their only try soon afterwards. But while that unwound the damage on the scoreboard - and more, as the Scottish try was converted - the malaise that had already become apparent in the overall Scottish performance remained.

The scrum was mostly solid, but two or three line-outs let them down. They also failed to get their mauling game going, an area in which Canada were definitely superior.

After the try exchange, it was tit-for-tat with penalties. The Scots held a 13-8 lead at half time, but Pritchard overhauled it with two kicks in the third quarter. Hogg blasted one over from long range, but then Pritchard nudged Canada ahead again. The match was settled by Laidlaw's final penalty, in the 72nd minute. Sinclair's red card four minutes later helped the Scots close out for a win they will cherish but which was only barely deserved.

Canada: J Pritchard; J Hassler, C Hearn, N Blevins (C Braid, 53), T Paris (DTH Van der Merwe, 44); H Jones, P Mack; H Buydens (A Tiedemann, 55), A Carpenter (R Barkwill, 58), J Marshall (J Ilnicki, 78), T Hotson, J Cudmore, J Sinclair, J Moonlight, T Ardron (Captain).

Scotland: S Hogg; S Maitland, S Lamont, P Horne, T Visser (M Evans, 71); F Russell (R Jackson, 61; G Hart, 76), G Laidlaw (captain); G Reid, S Lawson, M Low (G Cross, 47), R Gray, G Gilchrist, A Strokosch (B Cowan, 31), K Brown (K Low, 47), J Beattie (K Bryce, 58).

Referee: M Fraser (USA)

Attendance: 18,788

Contextual targeting label: 
Football

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