To Canadian sports fans of a certain age, the mention of Canada vs Russia brings out memories of that hockey game played in 1972 when Team Canada pulled off a magnificent series win over the USSR in Moscow. Canada and Russia met again on Saturday, not with the puck but with the oval ball at Calgary Rugby Park. This was the full deal, fifteen man version, part of a three-game #RISEAsOne Summer Series (Canada just lost to Japan in Vancouver a week ago and play Italy in Toronto next weekend).
The home team backs ran in four tries in a quick moving first half performance, founded on the efforts of a powerful, eagerly mobile pack. Calgary Hornets and Prairie Wolf Pack’s Gordon McRorie scored first and converted his own try. Taylor Paris then went over from the left wing, followed by tries by full-back Matt Evans and stand-off (fly-half), Patrick Parfrey. Russia returned with a converted try to make it 26-7 as the teams headed into the dressing room for the half-time break.
Live international rugby has been a rare treat for those Calgarians reluctant to venture across the country in search of their favourite sport. The last time a full men’s international happened here was eleven years ago when Canada won 22-15 against Argentina. The big Alberta rugby crowd showed yesterday that, really, that was too long a gap for top-level rugby to make its way back to Calgary. The fans had quite a few of their own to cheer for from the four additional grandstands installed for the day by the Calgary Rugby Union. As well as scrum-half McRorie, the centre pairing of Mozac Samson (Calgary Saints and Prairie Wolf Pack) and Nick Blevins (San Francisco and Prairie Wolf Pack) worked well together. Former Prairie Wolf Pack’s Evan Olmsted also put in a strong performance in the second row (he’s secured a contract to play top notch rugby in England for the Newcastle Falcons).
Shortly into the second half, scrum-half McRorie scored from a penalty kick then got his second try, coming in fast from the right and under the posts. With other conversions under his belt, he scored a total of 26 points on the day and was awarded Man of the Match. Replacement left winger, Jordan Wilson-Ross charged over the line for Canada’s sixth try, showing plenty pleasure after a two-year break from the national team. The visiting side kept their game going with a couple of tries but in the end, the Russian Bear was tamed. Final score: 46-21.
“Amazing to play here in Calgary, great atmosphere”, said Mozac Samson after the game. “We wanted to play, we wanted to win….winning in front of my hometown here in Calgary, it was awesome”. Let’s hope that international rugby comes back here soon.
For more rugby photos, please go to J. Ashley Nixon Photography