Despite 12 points from the boot of Bedford Blues skipper Jame Pritchard, Canada fell to a 32-19 defeat against the Maori All Blacks in Oxford on Friday night as the Canucks autumn internationals came to an end.
A last-minute try took the game out of reach off the Canucks as the All Blacks claimed another scalp on a highly successful tour.
Head coach Kieran Crowley knew that his side were in the game all the way, as he explained: “We were only 10 points behind at half time. In the first half we just gave away points through our kicking game, we put a few in the air in the wrong position, and we put ourselves under pressure.
“We talked about that at half time, and straight away we saw some gains, and the guys really took it to them.
“It was disappointing that they scored that try at the end, but our boys performed pretty well.”
Talking about being so close to keeping the Maori side without a try in the second half, Crowley added: “We were pleased in one way, but also disappointed.
“We were so close, and we have got to learn to be able to win these games against the better teams, because they would beat most countries, as that is a pretty good Maori team.
“We know we can match them now, and go with them. I thought our scrum and our lineout were outstanding tonight, and we fronted up. But we just have to get a little bit smarter in the attack side of things.”
The Maori side started strongest, and with penalties conceded, Willie Ripia made Canada pay with three well taken kicks in the first 15 minutes.
Romana Graham saw yellow only six minutes in, but even with 14 men, the All Black side held firm, and kept the pressure on Canada.
But it wasn’t all a one-way street and, with Canada working their way into the game, Pritchard pegged three points back on 27 minutes, just before Andre Taylor ripped through the red defensive line on the half-hour mark.
Pritchard’s kicking boots stayed true as he struck two more penalties before half time to keep the Canucks in the game, as they trailed 19-9 at the break.
The gap was reduced further three minutes into the second half with a fourth Pritchard goal, but Canada didn’t just threaten with the boot.
The team gained in confidence the longer the game went on and, with great running lines from Jeff Hassler and Connor Braid in particular, the team knew they were able to break the Maori line.
Taylor Paris was able to do so, reaching a grubber kick, but the referee decided that he didn’t touch down in time as he was chased to the line.
But it wasn’t long until the score came. Ray Barkwill was the man who carried over from a great drive over the line with seven minutes to play and, with Connor Braid converting, the gap was down to six points.
Ripia missed the chance to put the game out of reach with a penalty taken from the halfway line, but it was only moments later that his team-mate Charlie Ngatai confirmed the result with a last man overlap try out wide.
Canada: 1 Hubert Buydens, 2 Ryan Hamilton (Ray Barkwill 43), 3 Andrew Tiedemann (Doug Wooldridge 63), 4 Jebb Sinclair, 5 Tyler Hotson (Brett Beukeboom 58), 6 Tyler Ardron, 7 Chauncey O’Toole (John Moonlight 58), 8 Aaron Carpenter (C), 9 Phil Mack, 10 Connor Braid, 11 Taylor Paris, 12 Phil Mackenzie, 13 Ciaran Hearn (Sean Duke 80), 14 Jeff Hassler, 15 James Pritchard (Nathan Hirayama 63). Replacements not used: Jason Marshall, Eric Wilson. T: Barkwill. C: Braid. P: Pritchard 4.