The Province

Canada qualifies for Rugby World Cup

- — The Canadian Press

MARSEILLE, France — Canada booked its ticket to the Rugby World Cup on Friday with a 27-10 win over Hong Kong, completing a perfect run at a last-chance qualifying tournament.

The Canadian men had to rely on their defence in the first half, repeatedly repelling a Hong Kong team that had 75 per cent of the possession but trailed 14-3 at the break. Canada (3-0-0) bent but didn’t break with Hong Kong (1-2-0) unable to take advantage of its chances.

Canada was in control in the second half, grinding out the win.

Canada, ranked 21st in the world to No. 22 for Hong Kong, becomes the 20th and last team to make the field for the 2019 World Cup in Japan, Sept. 20-Nov. 2. The road doesn’t get any easier for Canada, which will slot into Pool B at the World Cup alongside top-ranked New Zealand, No. 5 South Africa, No. 14 Italy and No. 23 Namibia.

Canada defeated No. 30 Kenya (65-19) and No. 28 Germany (29-10) earlier at the four-team repechage tournament.

“A super-scrappy game but we’re just so happy to get away with the win,” said Canada captain Phil Mack. “Now the hard work really starts and we’ve got to go to the World Cup and perform,” he added.

Friday’s victory improved Canada’s record to 11-20-1 since the last World Cup in 2015.

The Canadians have never missed out on the sport’s showcase event. But it was a lot more difficult getting there this time. In past years, Canada qualified at the first attempt. This time it had to qualify via the last-ditch repechage after losing series against the 13th-ranked United States and No. 18 Uruguay.

Friday’s game opened in the rain at Stade Delort. While the downpour slowed, it made for slick conditions on a field that looked the worse for wear from the repechage.

Winger DTH van der Merwe scored two tries and veteran hooker Ray Barkwill added another for Canada. Gord McRorie kicked three conversion­s and two penalties. Van der Merwe, Canada’s all-time try scoring leader, had five tries to lead all-comers at the repechage.

Conor Hartley scored a try for Hong Kong. Matt Rosslee kicked a penalty and a conversion.

Millions of dollars in funding and, to some degree, Canada’s rugby reputation, were at stake in Marseille.

Rugby Canada badly needs the funding that World Rugby provides to World Cup participan­ts. And the Canadian men have struggled to hold their own in recent years. Missing out on the World Cup would have been a body blow.

After scoring a pair of bonus-point wins, the Canadians came into Friday’s game in the driver’s seat with 10 points. Hong Kong, which lost 26-9 to Germany and picked up a bonus point in beating Kenya 42-17, had five points.

 ?? — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Canadian rugby players celebrate their 27-10 victory over Hong Kong on Friday.
— THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Canadian rugby players celebrate their 27-10 victory over Hong Kong on Friday.

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