Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Canada's win over England in 1993

Match picA lookback at one of Canada's greatest wins and their only ever win against England, as a tough tackling side won out against their Lions tour effected opponents in Burnaby May 1993.

Pre Match:

The game was played during the Lions tour to New Zealand, the "White Lions" tour of 1993 no less, so as a result England were missing a number of frontline players and the game was considered uncapped from their point of view. However it is well worth noting this game would have certainly been considered capped if played now. The common practice changed in the professional era on whether to award caps during a Lions tour, and when England toured North America in 2001 it was indeed capped.

Although they were not full strength, England have always had the best depth of the Home Nations and there were several notable names in their lineup, one being Martin Johnson who was later flown out to New Zealand as injury replacement and ended up starting for the Lions in the Tests. They would have however been stronger for this game though all of Tim Rodber, Matt Dawson and Phil de Glanville hadn't broken down in the first two games of the tour against British Columbia and British Columbia President's XV.
Stormin' Norman
Hadley the giant
of Canadian rugby
in the early 1990's
missed the match

The first half of the 90's were undoubtedly the best period for Canadian rugby, prior to this game Canada had already notched up two wins over Argentina in 1990 and beaten Scotland in 1991 plus reached the quarter final of the World Cup. The generation of players and especially the pack had gained themselves a reputation for brave battling performances, holding the All Blacks to just 29 points in the World Cup and England as Grand Slam champions could only beat them 26-13 7 months earlier.

Even though they had not nearly as many players missing as the tourists, Canada were missing their captain perhaps their best known player of the time though in "Stormin' Norman" Hadley, as well as experienced flanker Don MacKinnon.

The Match:

The Canada team of the 90's was very different to Crowley's Canada of today. Whereas Canada's biggest problem now is getting outmuscled by sides, there were some very tough individuals in the 90's team who enjoyed the rough and tumble.

Within the first few minutes when England sent the Wasps wing Alan Buzza through the middle, he was duly smashed hard by a robust tackle from Scott Stewart and had to go off injured. That set the tone for the rest of the match, which was a tight low scoring affair won by the Canadian tackling.
(Video: Scott Stewart crunches Alan Buzza early on in the match)

There were few real highlight reel breaks, but the best attacking play of the match led to Canada's first points. The wingers Julian Loveday and Dave Lougheed and the loose forwards combined down the left and it nearly led to a wonderful team try but instead the Canadians had to settle for the first 3 points of the match.
GIF: The closest either side came to a try in the match
The lead was given away softly through penalties through backchat to the referee and a late tackle by Lougheed. Although neither team was creating much, both sides' kickers Gareth Rees and David Pears were in fine form and the match was ding dong affair. The only other notable break was Steve Gray slicing through the English defence which led to another penalty.

With the scores tied at 12-12 in the dying minutes, the match was decided in the end by a piece of indiscipline from Neil Back. The Canadians had got territory from some quick thinking by Stewart, who got a 22 drop out taken quickly. After a free kick was awarded the Canucks way, Back stupidly got into a scrap with Karl Svoboda and it was turned into a penalty. Rees made no mistake and Canada held on for a historic victory.
(Video: The match deciding incident of indiscipline from Neil Back)


Canada would go onto narrowly lose the following week in a tight match at Twin Elms Park, but this generation would back up this result later in the year with an away win over Wales at the Cardiff Arms Park, and also beat France in Nepean a year later and both capped matches for both.

Even though England didn't award caps for this game, the significance of the victory from the Canadian perspective shouldn't be downplayed too much as a result. As mentioned before, it would certainly have been capped today and if Canada had beaten the English team that toured Argentina last summer for example that would have still been a huge result.
Martin Johnson and Neil
Back lifted the World Cup
10 years after this game

14 of the 16 English players used in the game won full international caps, 5 of them went on the 1997 Lions tour and 2 of them in Neil Back and Martin Johnson became all time greats of the English game and played huge roles in them winning the World Cup 10 years later.

For Canada, their peak probably finished after the win over France in 1994 and results dwindled after that. A new generation containing the likes of Mike James, Winston Stanley and Rod Snow emerged and did continue to keep the side reasonably competitive for a few years after, with a few from this side in Stewart, Lougheed and Al Charron continuing along with them through into the new Millennium.

But Canada really didn't take the switch to professionalism well. When many of the names mentioned above retired around 2003, Canada just 10 years after possibly their greatest ever year in 1993 were about to embark on the worst era in their history.

Match Details:

Canada: 15 S Stewart; 14 J Loveday, 13 S Gray, 12 G Rees, 11 D Lougheed; 10 J Graf, 9 C Tynan; 1 E Evans, 2 K Svoboda (c), 3 D Jackart; 4 A Charron, 5 J Knauer; 6 G Ennis, 7 B Breen, 8 C McKenzie.
Penalties: Rees (4) Drop Goal: Graf

England: 15 D Pears; 14 A Buzza (N Beal 4), 13 S Potter, 12 D Hopley, 11 C Oti; 10 P Challinor, 9 K Bracken; 1 G Rowntree, 2 J Olver (c), 3 V Ubogu; 4 M Johnson, 5 A Blackmore; 6 J Hall, 7 N Back, 8 S Ojomoh.
Penalties: Pears (4)

Referee: Andrew MacNeill (Australia) | Venue: Swangard Stadium, Burnaby, BC

Highlights Video:

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