The Irish Legends moved a step closer to the World Rugby Classic title after defeating Rugby Canada 10-7 in the semi-finals at North Field, National Sports Centre, last night.
Ireland, returning to the Classic after a 25-year absence, were up against a determined-looking Canada, eager to write their own piece of history and reach the final for the first time.
Irish pressure paid off in the 26th minute as Fergal Campion, their outside centre, opened the scoring and then kicked the extra points, his effort bouncing in off the crossbar.
The Canadians, buoyed by their heroic 26-24 win over the Classic Springboks on Sunday, showed plenty of appetite for the battle and scored early in the second period through centre Josh Campbell. Derek Daypuck, the fly half, kicked the conversion to level the score.
Ireland nudged ahead midway through the half when the metronomic boot of Campion kicked a penalty to give his side a three-point lead, which they refused to relinquish.
Len Dineen, the Ireland manager, praised his players’ resilience and believed their extra knowhow proved to be the difference.
“That was a tough game,” he said. “They’re a good side, the Canadians, and they beat a good South African side in the quarter-finals.
“But, our guys were just so, so tough and they dug it out. We have a lot of experienced guys in our squad and they came through in the end. We’re really, really happy. We’ll have a few beers tonight and then look forward to Saturday [the final].”
After picking up a few injuries during the bruising encounter, Ireland will hope to patch up their “walking wounded” in time for the final, when they will face the winner of tonight’s other semi between the Classic Lions and the Classic Pumas.
“We’ve got a lot of sore bodies and a few guys need stitches,” Dineen said. “We’ll see how many players turn up on Saturday!”
Jonathan Goldie, the Canada coach, hailed his side “gargantuan effort” but was left ruing missed opportunities.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t capitalise on our chances and they did,” Goldie said. “That was the three-point difference in the end.
“It’s been a fantastic trip and we’ve established a really strong bond with all of the guys. We’re glad to have been able to come here and entertain the people. That’s why we try to do.”
In the Plate semi-final, France Classic Rugby condemned the Classic Springboks to their second straight defeat last night.
The French won 17-10 thanks to a pair of tries from No 8 Thomas Soucaze. His opposite number Darron Nel accounted for South Africa’s try.
Patrice Lagisquet, the France coach, said he was delighted with the way his team bounced back from their disappointing 24-10 loss to Ireland last weekend.
“The president of France Classic Rugby [Philippe Leveau] lost his father this morning, and we swore that we would have to do our maximum today.
“We kept defending, defending, defending and finally we scored the tries.”
Lagisquet added: “We were upset to lose the first game. The France Classic team has won the Plate many times and this year we wanted to be better.”