Canada fought to their second successive draw with Japan at the Rugby World Cup yesterday and while the two points were welcomed by captain Pat Riordan, he felt the 23-23 tie was “a bit like kissing your cousin.”
Canada flyhalf Ander Monro slotted a 79th-minute penalty to snatch the draw in their Pool A match at McLean Park to extend Japan’s winless streak at the World Cup since their 52-8 win over Zimbabwe in 1991.
The two sides also met at the 2007 World Cup in France and finished tied 12-12.
Canada captain Riordan said his side were left frustrated, despite coming from eight points down with eight minutes left.
“The tie is a bit like kissing your cousin. It’s great to kiss them, but it’s your cousin,” Riordan told reporters. “The guys are pretty glum at the moment. We felt there were a couple of times where we could have pulled away and I’m sure the Japanese felt there were a couple of times they could have iced it.”
Monro, who also scored a 75th-minute try, had endured a dreadful kicking game, missing three of his previous four attempts before the match-saving penalty.
Canada center D.T.H. van der Merwe and winger Phil Mackenzie scored earlier tries, while Japan flyhalf James Arlidge notched 13 points with the boot. Japan also scored tries through hooker Shota Horie and winger Kosuke Endo.
Canada started the brightest and center van der Merwe opened the scoring in the seventh minute when he romped over untouched from an attacking scrum. Fullback James Pritchard converted to give the North Americans a 7-0 lead.
Japan struck back almost immediately when Horie burrowed over with Arlidge converting, then adding a penalty to give the Pacific Nations Cup champions a 10-7 lead.
Japan took advantage of the stiff westerly breeze to take control of the game, though they blew two try-scoring opportunities when fullback Shaun Webb was forced out when he had winger Hirotoki Onizawa in support and captain Takashi Kikutani threw the ball out when Endo was unmarked.
However, Endo ensured Japan did not waste their territorial advantage when he scored under the posts from an attacking scrum and Arlidge converted to give them a 17-7 lead at the break.
Canada replied after halftime when Mackenzie scored from another attacking scrum as he drifted across field and outstripped the defense with his pace.
Turnovers in the tackle and at the breakdown kept haunting Canada, and they were only able to reduce the deficit through a penalty to Monro.
Arlidge restored Japan’s five-point lead two minutes later with a penalty, before Monro scored his late try and penalty to snatch the draw.
“I thought we had done enough to win the game,” Japan coach John Kirwan said. “I think Canada showed desperation to try and get the game out. At times we just needed to get back down there [in Canada’s territory], put more pressure on them, get more points. That’s World Cup. They kept coming at us and ended up with the draw.”