June 10, 2006

The England Saxons earned a berth in the Barclays Churchill Cup Plate Final and Canada a berth in the Bowl Final following a 41-11 win by the visitors at York University Stadium in Toronto in front of 7500 fans on Saturday.

The power, pace and bench strength of the England Saxons eventually took its toll on the smaller Canadian team as it struggled to contain the powerful running and speed of England's outside backs, in particular wing Richard Houghton who accounted for the first try of the game, and fullback Delon Armitage, who scored two tries.

" When you look at the size of some of our guys compared to their players -- they aren't as big," said Canada coach Ric Suggitt after the game. " When I looked at the men they had on their bench with massive chests and big powerful legs and I have to say that while we are working to develop our players' bodies, we still have a ways to go. That is something that we are working to resolve, but we're not there yet."

England Saxons, wanted to redeem themselves following its 13-7   loss to Scotland 'A' here at York University Stadium last weekend in a steady rain, and Canada badly needed a win after its 15-10 loss to Scotland 'A' at Ottawa's Twin Elm Park on Wednesday night. A big ask for Canada to have to play two games at this level within three days of one another.

In contrast to last weekend's downpour, today the sun shone brightly down but with a swirling wind blowing straight down the pitch from left to right. England kicked off with the almost gale force wind and despite some good grafting by Canada in the early going Saxon wing Richard Houghton went over in the right corner after he re-adjusted the ball a few times before finally gathering and touching down. No conversion. 5-0.

With scrum-half Morgan Williams providing lively and accurate service to new outside-half Ander Monro, Canada ran the ball at every occasion.

At 13 minutes with Canada defending with zeal it was caught offside right in front of their own posts and David Walder increased the score to 8-0 with the easiest of penalty kicks. 8-0.

Canada lost lock Matt Phinney to the sin bin because of a punch at 15 minutes, and thought Canada did its best with a man down, fullback Delon Armitage scored just before Phinney returned. England Saxons won a line-out and spread the ball wide bringing Armitage into the line, where he fought through tackles to score: 13-0.

Armitage increased the Saxon's lead a minute later on a similar play with Walder creating uncertainty in the Canadian back-line by showing the ball to create space. He converted: 20-0.

Now with the game looking out of reach, Canada suddenly put together a tremendous play for Witkowski to score wide out. Nearly the full Canada team had a hand in this try with new outside-half Ander Monro and scrum-half Morgan Williams involved more than once. Forwards Mike Pletch, Luke Tait, new cap Mike Barbieri and David Biddle all took the ball into contact on various occasions, until the ball finally came out to Ed Fairhurst, coming into the line from fullback, and he gave Nik Witkowski the pass that saw the centre over unopposed from fifteen metres. No conversion: 20-5.

The try gave Canada a boost in confidence with centre David Spicer making a super break up the middle and Canada putting together some fine phase plays that again nearly led to a score.

Just before the half Mike Barbieri came off allowing the Pletch brothers to reconvene in the front-row where they had played together against Scotland 'A' on Wednesday evening last. The Barbieri family will have cause to celebrate this evening because his brother Rob also won his first cap against Japan today playing for Italy, thus making two Canadians who have played for Canada and also have brothers who play for another country. Last year Casey Dunning won a cap for Canada joining his brother Matt who plays for Australia in international rugby. Half time: 20-5 to England Saxons.

Wing Justin Mensah-Cocker, who enjoyed a fine day offensively, looked almost certain to score but suddenly lost his footing as the game restarted. At 45 minutes Monro struck his first points for the country of his birth, with a penalty from in front of the posts after referee Olan Trevor pinged the Saxons for not releasing after a tackle: 20-8.

England responded to this affront by putting Kai Horstmann, over three minutes later after the Saxons moved the ball backwards and forwards across the field involving most of their players until the #8 powered over. Walder converted: 27-8.

At 62 centre Chris Bell scored after wing Richard Houghton turned on the after-burners and beat Justin Mensah-Cocker with an inside/outside move that left the big winger grasping for air. Nearly over himself, he passed inside to Bell as fullback Fairhurst closed in for the tackle. Walder converted: 34-8.

Saxon's captain Ben Johnston went to the sin-bin for a dangerous tackle round the neck of Adam Kleeberger and Monro obliged with a penalty goal from in front at 66 minutes: 34-11.

Despite the increasing score-line Canada continued to force the issue with Aaron Carpenter, who had come on for David Biddle, making an impressive run out of this own 22 and up the field.

Soon after Ed Fairhurst ran a turn-over ball out of his 22 and fed Mike Pyke and the big winger strode into space and down to the half-way line where he fed Justin Mensah-Cocker who roared on. Forced to chip the ball ahead, it went out near the five metre line. At the resulting line-out a punch-up occurred and Matt Phinney, who had received an earlier binning was ejected at the 80 minute mark.

Finally England Saxons closed their account when substitute Ben Woods after Walder chipped through a ball that the flanker fell on to score. Walder converted: 41-11. Final.

"There had some big guys out there today," said young David Spicer who enjoyed a good outing. "But, I think we did pretty well. We made a couple of defensive errors. We have to communicate more than we do, and if we tidy that up, we'll be there. I thought that when we had the ball in hand and were flinging it around, we were just as good as they were. We just have to back ourselves more and go at them."  


"Our first up tackles let us down," said captain Morgan Williams. " We stole a bunch of their ball which was pretty positive. A lot of the guys worked very hard and our try was well executed. But, when you play a side like England side that is fully professional, it is always going to be a tough day."

Sean-Michael Stephen played impressively at #8. " I didn't find them any more physical or difficult than Scotland 'A' the other night," said the Oakville man. "We can take some things out of today's game and we'll have to use them again next week in Edmonton."

"It was tough out there, the English are well organized, very direct in their running and have some big players," said outside-half Andre Monro. " I though we did our best, and showed in the try we scored, what we can do with some quick go ahead ball. Nevertheless the final score-line was disappointing."   

1. Mike Barbieri (Overmarch Parma (Italy))
2 Aaron Abrams (Castaway-Wanderers)  
3. Mike Pletch (Oakville Crusaders / Niagara Thunder)
4. Luke Tait (Overmarch Parma (Italy))
5. Matt Phinney (Meraloma / Toronto Xtreme)
6. David Biddle (Meraloma)
7. Adam Kleeberger (University of Victoria / Crimson Tide)
8. Sean-Micheal Stephen (Oakville Crusaders / Niagara Thunder)
9. Morgan Williams (Stade Francais (France))
10. Ander Monro (Edinburgh Gunners (Scotland))
11 Mike Pyke (Edinburgh Gunners (Scotland))
12. David Spicer (University of Victoria / Crimson Tide)
13. Nik Witkowski (Coventry (England))
14.Justin Mensah-Cocker (Meraloma / Vancouver Wave)
15. Ed Fairhurst (University of Victoria / Crimson Tide)

16. Pat Riordan (Burnaby Lake / Vancouver Wave (2@52)
17. Dan Pletch (Oakville Crusaders / Niagara Thunder (1@39)
18. Hubert Buydens (Saskatoon Wild Oats / Prairie Fire (3@66)
19. Oliver Atkinson (Velox Valhallians / Toronto Xtreme (4@56)
20. Kris Witkowski (Castaway-Wanderers (9@73)
21.Aaron Carpenter (Brantford Harlequins / Niagara Thunder (6@68)
22. Craig Culpan (Meraloma (10@56-61 BLOOD) (13@75)

ENGLAND SAXONS ( Replacements not recorded)
15 Delon Armitage (London Irish)
14 Richard Haughton (Saracens)
13 Ben Johnston (capt, Saracens)
12 Chris Bell (Leeds Tykes)
11 Alex Crockett (Bath Rugby)
10 Dave Walder (Newcastle Falcons)
9 Richard Wigglesworth (Sale Sharks)
1 Micky Ward (Newcastle Falcons)
2 David Paice (London Irish)
3 Robbie Morris (Newcastle Falcons)
4 Nick Kennedy (London Irish)
5 Kieran Roche (London Irish)
6 Luke Narraway (Gloucester)
7 David Seymour (Saracens)
8 Kai Horstmann (Worcester Warriors)
16 James Buckland (Leicester Tigers)
17 David Barnes (Bath Rugby)
18 James Hudson (Bath Rugby)
19 Ben Woods (Newcastle Falcons)
20 Clive Stuart-Smith (Llanelli Scarlets)
21 Sam Vesty (Leicester Tigers)
22 Ayoola Erinle (WASPS)

Ian Kennedy - RC Press Officer