Monday's Musings: Memories from World Cups Past.

Posted in Canada Rugby / NSMT / RWC

Monday's Musings: Memories from World Cups Past.

Memories from World Cups Past.

(Cardinal’s – First ever RWC, Canadian Try)

……and so another four years have passed and the boys are in camp again, a select group will earn the honour of representing Canada with the plethora of nations at the acme of our game.  Canada has played in every RWC since the inception, leaving us with many memorable moments.  I thought it ironical that my current read is; “The Springboks and the Holy Grail” by Dan Retief.  It is a chronicle of South Africa’s return to the global rugby fray, 1995 – 2007 with the 1995 gladiatorial highlight being the crux of the return.  Of course, the release of Madiba and his role in unifying the Rainbow nation, went hand in hand with the RWC.

When Retief arrived at “The Battle of Boet Erasmus”, it made me think of many personal highlights and disappointments for the players and fans – me, in particular, over the past seven cups.  Firstly, it must be said that the players and coaches’ efforts have been without peer for our minnow nation with moments of greatness, remembered by those who witnessed them.  Let us start with the following from one of Canada’s most outstanding heroes, Gareth Rees, who played in the inaugural event as a nineteen year old. After an opening victory over Tonga, Rees recalls; “I remember watching Ireland play Wales on TV the day after the Tonga game and it was abysmal rugby.  That was the first time that we got a sniff that maybe we could do something here.  And because we had put so many points on Tonga when the group table went up on the screen, we were leading the group above Wales and Ireland.  That was a wonderful feeling – the stuff of dreams”.  The above picture shows the absolute jubilation by Mark Cardinal scoring the try against Ireland, in that same RWC which had Canada in front 19 – 16 with fifteen minutes remaining but inexperience sunk the ship as Ireland finally got into their flare to win the match.

Retief focussed my thoughts as he espoused his research and conclusions about the Canada/Springbok match. Referee, Mac Hugh started the game after the “lights went out” with more ‘lights out’ to follow! Retief opined that “the Canadians tried to get under the skins of the Boks with off the ball niggles”. Anyone with any degree of objectivity would oppose this observation, in fact, to quote one participant; “It was the dirtiest match of rugby I played in during my career”. The writer’s POV that the Canadian blame inferred a sic-ing by South African born, Christian Stewart, (who ironically, was to later represent South Africa) and the involvement of Winston Stanley (the player originally interfered with) and the volatile entry of Scott Stewart to initiate the melee, all seems to be both inaccurate and biased. (Perhaps Stewart’s motivation to the enter fray was as a result of a “pre-pummelling” incident where he was the recipient!) In fact, the game was mishandled from the get-go.  Not to agree or disagree, nor to get into the details but his diminishment of Springbok blame was enough to raise the hackles of this Canadian fan.  I smiled when I read his postulation of Winston as a catalyst.  I have gotten to know Winston in a casual way in recent years via our mutual interest with mini rugby with our respective clubs. Although I’ve no doubt Winston was no “soft touch”, after viewing the unfolding of events, I find the author’s assessment to be preposterous.  Enough said.

The name, Winston Stanley got me thinking of another memorable moment which involved this man in the 2003 RWC. It was Canada on the attack at a full house, seaside Wollongong stadium against Tonga.  Winston put a chip kick through to turn the Tongans around and the ball rose and whacked one of a host of gulls wheeling around the ground! A freak event but a colorful memory.  Same game, a similar freak event was when Mike James went on his famed “chariot ride” from a lineout play.  Standing shoulder by shoulder amongst a myriad of Islanders, seeing Mike’s actions, the sheer joy and fun of the moment was hilarious.

Final incident, same game, one which was not for the faint-hearted, saw Captain Charon take a face-full of Tongan cleats which necessitated his replacement.  This Mighty Oak returned from Emergency to the “Tea Party” with a veritable crossword of internal and external sutures.  The moment inspired a spontaneous rendering by all assembled of “O Canada”, probably my most spine-tingling singing of the anthem.  It was a genuine tribute to the man and the warriors who had taken down Tonga on this day.

Winding up with a “high” and a “low”. My greatest visual high was the sheer jubilation from Cardinal (above) as he burrowed his way through that sea of green jerseys. The game of all games for Canada was in the 1991 quarter-final in Lille, the only time Canada has ever made the second round and a monumental performance from one and all, again, that wonderful soldier, Captain Charon, comes to mind with his tally and a final score line of 13 – 29, a truly amateur side, worrying about having to take extra time from work Vs the mighty All Blacks.  What a great game!  The “low” was sitting in a pub in Bordeaux in 2007 with Canada on the edge of a memorable, come-from-behind win over Fiji, at far away, Millennium Stadium.  The score was 16 – 22 with Canada on the attack and on the verge of a miraculous comeback, Fiji, collapsing mauls on their line as retention occurred with some fifteen or so Canadian recycles and Fiji under pressure when the ball mercurially squirted from a pair of attacker’s hands two meters short of the line, into a waiting pair of Fijian hands and a length-of-the-field scamper and a 16 – 29 loss.

Mike Pyke who put in a great effort Vs Fiji was all the “go”, pre-RWC as a result from a “build-up game” for “Bill” Vs N.Z., I have to mention his “Immaculate Interception” where he went almost the “full one hundred”, a feat still often referred to, particularly in Australian Rules circles.

These are not the best or worst reflections and the recall may have dimmed slightly with the years, but rather a glimmer of insight and memory through a one, red-eyed Canadian fan! I hope these snippets will have jogged reader’s memories of this wonderful quadrennial event – the William Webb Ellis Rugby World Cup.  Thanks to all who have worn the Maple Leaf for some wonderful memories and the best of luck to this year’s contenders.

FOR SALE:  A pair of tickets for Canada Vs Romania, Tuesday, October 6th, 4:45 p.m. k.o. 

Venue – Leinster.  Face value = 40 pound (Ca. = $76 approx.)  Or b.o.

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