Scotland's struggles in 2014 continued on Saturday, needing a late penalty to defeat a resilient Canadian team 19-17 in Toronto.
Canada started the match as the more energetic team, while Scotland's dominance in the scrum and set pieces was clear from the first whistle. Greig Laidlaw put the Scots up 3-0 with an early penalty, with both teams committing errors all over the pitch.
As shared by RugbyUnplugged.com, Scotland's defence looked shaky despite the early lead:
Phil Mack seemed to have scored the first try of the match just minutes later, but the officials overruled his touch down. Possession was mainly for the hosts, with large portions of the match being played close to the Scottish line.
The visitors got a chance to press forward after 10 minutes but gave away the ball in a silly manner, and the Canadians would get a penalty from the resulting break, James Pritchard tying the match up 3-3.
Canada continued pushing and took the lead on a try from Jeff Hassler, diving in on the wing after great work from Ciaran Hearn. The conversion was missed, however, and as shared by The News Review's Chase Ruttig, Canada weren't taking enough advantage of the chances they got against a strong Scottish line:
Canada can't get stopped on the line by Scotland like that, need to be perfect to beat the next level of nations they aspire to compete with— Chase Ruttig (@ChaseRuttig) June 14, 2014
Scotland retook the lead with a try of their own immediately after Canada's score, breaking out wide before working the ball back to the posts. Grant Gilchrist powered his way over the line and Laidlaw didn't miss the conversion, the score now 10-8.
Canada came very close to scoring a second try, but excellent defensive work from Scotland kept the hosts from adding to their tally. Amid the carnage Alasdair Strokosch went down with an injury, and as reported by The Scottish Daily Mail's Rob Robertson, the flanker had to be taken to the hospital:
Alasdair Strokosch @Scotlandteam taken to hospital for assessment on a neck injury.— Rob Robertson (@SDM_Robertson) June 14, 2014
Strokosch stayed down for minutes and left the pitch on a stretcher, and with both teams visibly shocked by the severity of the situation, the energy was drained out of the match. Scotland finally found some breathing space, and Laidlaw would score one more penalty to make the score 13-8 after the first half.
Pritchard scored a penalty early in the second half as shared by Rugby Canada, and Canada seemed to have rediscovered their energy in the dressing room. Scotland were reeling now, and yet another penalty gave the hosts a one-point lead with half an hour left to play.
Scotland now took control of the match, using a physical approach to work the ball forward. A massive penalty from just inside the Canadian half gave the Scots the lead back, courtesy of the big leg of Stuart Hogg.
Canada's reputation for crumbling in the final 20 minutes didn't rear its ugly head, and Pritchard kicked his team back in front with 10 minutes left on the clock, the hosts now holding a one-point lead. That lead was short-lived, however, Laidlaw again coming through in the clutch to make it 19-17.
BBC's Andrew Cotter wasn't happy with the team, however:
Look, I'm not going to lie. Scotland are not playing well against Canada.— Andrew Cotter (@MrAndrewCotter) June 14, 2014
The hosts tried to push for a late winner, but Scotland's experience made the difference in the final minutes, easily controlling play on their way to the win. A controversial late red card for Jebb Sinclair made the task even more difficult for the hosts, and manager Ciaran Crowley didn't like the decision at all, as shared by Bleacher Report's Jeff Hull:
Coach Kieran Crowley on the Red Card: "I don't know what your supposed to do with your arm there. The ref made his decision. I don't agree."— Jeff Hull (@HullatHome) June 14, 2014
Scotland's Vern Cotter praised the Canadian team, pointing out the team is on the right track:
He also conceded the red card had a big impact on the match, taking some of the Canadian momentum away:
@ScotlandTeam Coach Vern Cotter: "Obviously the red card was a turning point. They were attacking & it changed momentum. Was a big moment."— Jeff Hull (@HullatHome) June 14, 2014
Scotland can't be happy with the result of this match, as the Canadians showed their inexperience by making plenty of mistakes the visitors never took advantage of. Following the disappointment of the Six Nations, this team is still trying to reinvent itself, and so far, it seems with little success.
The hosts will feel like they had a strong chance of winning this match, but playing 80 strong minutes against a team as powerful as Scotland is something to be proud of for Canada. The team didn't back down in the final 20 minutes, and if they can find more discipline on set pieces, the future of Canadian rugby will look very bright.