No summer? No problem.
Argentina showed why it is a world top-10 rugby nation as its development team, the future players for the full national-side Pumas, defeated Canada 20-6 in adverse conditions in the Americas Championship tournament opener at Westhills Stadium in Langford.
“We went from 35 degrees [upon leaving Buenos Aires last week] to near zero degrees,” said Argentina's coach, Felipe Contepomi, the former fly-half, who earned 87 caps for his country from 1998 to 2013 while scoring a Pumas-record 651 Test points.
“The conditions tonight were very tough for us, but the boys did really well.”
As one would expect of future Pumas, even playing with a slippery brick of a ball.
A coating of snow remained on the Westhills pitch from Friday night’s snowfall as the temperature hovered at about 2 C. Even the rain seemed excessively cruel on this night.
Island rugby fans, however, again proved to be a hardy lot, with more than 2,000 people in attendance despite the inclement conditions.
Asked to describe what it was like to be out there, wet and cold, on the pitch, Canadian captain Gordon McRorie replied: “God awful — but we made sure to show [the Argentines] we were enjoying it.”
That psychological ploy didn’t work.
“We made mistakes and you can’t do that against a Tier 1 nation,” said McRorie, who accounted for all Canadian scoring, with two penalty goals.
McRorie, Nick Blevins, Taylor Paris and Phil Mack looked the best of the Canadians.
“The conditions were super sloppy and cold,” said Mack, the veteran international from Victoria, who was his usual darting self in the Canadian backfield.
“We made too many mistakes in their end of the field.”
Canada was right in it at half-time, with the score deadlocked 3-3.
“It was anybody's game at the half,” Canadian head coach Mark Anscombe said.
“But they put us under pressure in the second half while we didn’t get a shot in the second half.”
Argentina’s tries came from Santiago Medrano and Segundo Tuclet, while Domingo Miotti was perfect on his four kicks by slotting two penalty goals and two conversions.
Argentina is the defending Americas tournament champion.
Canada continues the Americas Championship with a game next Saturday at Westhills Stadium against Chile and another home fixture against the United States on Feb. 18 at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby. That will be followed by away Tests in Uruguay on Feb. 25 and Brazil on March 4.
All games in the Americas Championship are Test matches except those featuring world No. 9 Argentina, which is fielding its national development side, because the full national-team Pumas would overwhelm the tournament.
Canada is preparing for its biggest Tests of the year — the two-game qualifying set in June against the U.S. — to decide the North American berth into the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
BETWEEN THE UPRIGHTS: It was a lot warmer in Australia, where the Langford-based Rio Olympics bronze-medallist Canadian women’s team won the Sydney Sevens by beating the U.S. 21-17 in the final. Canada stunned host and Rio Olympic-champion Australia 12-7 in the semifinals. Canada had beaten Russia 26-5 in the quarter-finals after going 2-1 in pool play. It was Canada’s third all-time World Series title.
The hard-luck Langford-based Canadian men’s sevens, meanwhile, were 1-1-1 in pool play in the Sydney Sevens and failed to advance to the quarter-finals on tiebreakers.