On a Saturday in which its home base of Greater Victoria experienced a rare bout of real Canadian winter, the national rugby team found the going too hot to handle in Sao Paulo.
Underdog Brazil, which did not qualify for the 2019 World Cup in Japan, defeated World Cup-bound Canada 18-10 in an Americas Championship Test match.
“It was a hard lesson tonight and not a good day,” said Canadian head coach Kingsley Jones of Sooke.
This wasn’t Canada’s top-tier lineup as Jones tried out a lot of newcomers and different combinations. But this isn’t soccer, either. Canada is rightly expected to beat Brazil on the rugby pitch, no matter the roster, and everybody knows it.
“It’s a very disappointed dressing room for a number of reasons,” said Jones.
“The performance was not what we would expect. The biggest disappointment was the mental challenge. We knew the environment was going to be hard. On the road is tough with the crowd. But we’ve got to kill teams like Brazil off and we didn’t do that. [Brazil] has two things — a world-class kicker and a good scrum. We’re better everywhere than them. But the mental aspect is certainly an issue for us. Giving kickable penalties away.
“But we’ve got to congratulate Brazil. They mentally did the job on us. They got the outcome. … We panicked and forced things and went away from script.”
Canada got off to a 10-0 lead in just two minutes through a converted try and penalty kick, all accounted for by Ciaran Hearn, which may not have been a good thing.
“Maybe we got too complacent,” said Jones.
The result took the shine off Hearn’s big day. Hearn, who came out of Windsor Park in Oak Bay and a tremendous career with Castaway Wanderers, moved to No. 4 on the all-time Canadian list with 65 caps, surpassing Scott Stewart. Hearn is behind only former Victoria great Winston Stanley’s 66 caps, Al Charron’s 76 and Aaron Carpenter’s 80.
Canada has now followed the high of going 3-0 against Kenya, Germany and Hong Kong and qualifying for the World Cup through the last-chance repechage last fall in Marseille, France, with two consecutive losses in the Americas Championship.
Canada started the event with a last-second 20-17 loss to Uruguay last week in Montevideo. Brazil was crushed 54-3 in its Americas Championship opener last weekend against host Argentina XV.
The Americas tournament now shifts north for Canada’s games at Westhills Stadium in Langford against Chile on Feb. 22 and Argentina XV on March 1. Both games will be broadcast live on TSN 5.
“We’ll [next] face Chile at home and we want to see a positive reaction,” said Jones.
Canada closes out against the U.S. on March 8 in Seattle. That’s a big grudge match in the wake of the U.S. drubbing of Canada in the direct North American qualifier for the 2019 World Cup in 2017 at San Diego.