INTERNATIONAL

Canada beat Hong Kong to qualify for World Cup

Canada are the 20th and final qualifier for Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan after beating Hong Kong 27-10 in the final match of the repechage tournament in Marseille on Friday. 
They take their place in Pool B alongside defending champions New Zealand, two-time winners South Africa, Italy and African qualifiers Namibia with their first match to be against the Azzurri in Fukuoka on 26 September 2019.
The qualification process, which began in St Vincent and the Grenadines on 5 March, 2016, has involved 188 matches across 994 days with 10,355 points scored in total by the 71 teams who began with a dream of playing at RWC 2019 but which only USA, Uruguay, Russia, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Namibia and Canada were able to realize.
Germany finished second in the repechage standings after recording a bonus-point 43-6 victory over Kenya in Friday’s opening game. Hong Kong finished third with Kenya fourth.
A try in each half by DTH van der Merwe helped Canada preserve their ever-present status on the Rugby World Cup stage with a hard-fought victory over a Hong Kong side who threw everything they had at their opponents in a bid to reach their first tournament.
Hong Kong knew the size of the task facing them, needing not only to beat Canada with a bonus point but also deny the Canucks a bonus point, and would have drawn confidence from the way they drove the North Americans back in the game’s first scrum near halfway.
Losing centre Tyler Spitz to what looked like a hamstring injury inside three minutes was a blow for Hong Kong, but they didn’t let it affect them, instead of throwing everything at their more experienced opponents and taking up camp inside Canada’s 22 for much of the opening 12 minutes. With the rain still pouring down they twice turned down penalties in front of the posts for scrums and won several penalties, but Canada survived the early onslaught.
That galvanised Canada and they finally got their hands on the ball, ultimately working their veteran hooker Ray Barkwill over for the opening try under the posts in the 18th minute. Hong Kong thought they had hit back and got one of the tries they needed through scrum-half Liam Slatem six minutes later, but it was ruled out by the TMO for an earlier knock-on.
Instead, it was a penalty by Matt Rosslee, who was running hard at the Canadian defence with every opportunity, who scored Hong Kong’s first points just before the half-hour mark with a penalty.
Within two minutes, though, it was Rosslee’s clearance kick deep in his own 22 that was charged down by Canada’s record try scorer DTH van der Merwe, the winger reacting quickest to score his fourth try of the tournament after his first test hat-trick on day one against Kenya. Gordon McRorie added the conversion to make it 14-6 in Canada’s favour.
McRorie then saw his first-half finish 90 seconds early after being yellow-carded by referee Romain Poite for a deliberate knock-on in his own 22. Hong Kong, though, were again unable to find a way through the Canada defence who repelled several pick and goes before winning a penalty on their own line.
Hong Kong tried to make the most of their man advantage at the start of the second half with Slatem bursting through before being stopped short and then the ball was lost forward on the left wing, but they finally found a way through after McRorie returned, winger Conor Hartley dotting down in the right corner to the delight of their vocal fans.
McRorie then missed a relatively straightforward penalty attempt but rediscovered his kicking boots in the 61st and 67th minutes to convert his next two chances to give Canada more breathing space at 20-10. That lead grew to 17 points as the match entered the final eight minutes after Van der Merwe shrugged off four tackles to score his second try, McRorie curling in the conversion from the touchline.
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