A young Welsh team was made to work for their 32-23 victory over Canada in the York University Stadium in Toronto on Saturday.
With two converted tries apiece, it was the boot of 19-year-old fly-half Dan Biggar that made the difference for Wales, as he slotted over six penalties to James Pritchard’s three.
Canada worked hard against an inexperienced Welsh side and drew level in the second half at 16-16, but eventually a couple of calls and some ill-discipline cost them.
After the game, the Welsh captain Ryan Jones criticized Canada for their frustrating tactics at the breakdown. This sentiment was echoed by the Welsh caretaker, coach Robin McBryde.
Still, it was a big improvement for Canada following last week’s 25-6 defeat at the hands of the Six Nations Grand Slam winners, Ireland. The Irish were also the last opponents for Wales in March, when they beat the Welsh to claim their first Grand Slam since 1948.
Canada can take heart from Saturday’s performance, though it was a game for Wales to lose. The Lions tour of South Africa had taken 13 Welsh players as well as the dynamic coaching duo of Warren Gatland and Shaun Edwards. So it was up to the Welsh youngsters to make their presence known and for them to fight for a more permanent place in the Welsh squad.
The last time Canada played a full strength Wales team was back in November, when they were beaten 34-13 by the then Six Nation champions.
It has been nearly 16 years since Canada's only victory over Wales, when they won 26-24 in Cardiff. But they are always a side which work hard and worry opponents. So hats off to both teams to Wales for being patient and to Canada for coming close to an upset.
Spare a thought for Canadian rugby. Canada must be one of the few rugby nations on Earth who often have to start preseason training in a foot of snow, for that I salute you.
The next game for Wales is against the USA in Chicago on Saturday.