September 26, 2019 / 12:59 PM / 18 days ago

Canada coach rues lost opportunities against Italy

FUKUOKA, Japan (Reuters) - A dropped ball by replacement flanker Matt Heaton with the line gaping did not cost Canada victory against Italy in their Rugby World Cup Pool B match on Thursday but it could have changed the game’s momentum, coach Kingsley Jones said.

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2019 - Pool B - Italy v Canada - Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium, Fukuoka, Japan - September 26, 2019 Canada head coach Kingsley Jones reacts during the warm up before the match REUTERS/Issei Kato

Heaton only had to catch the ball and flop over the line after his captain Tyler Ardron had burst clear to set up what should have been their opening try and reduce the score to 17-7 after the Italians had started strongly.

Instead the Italians reached halftime 17-0 up at Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium and kicked on to run out 48-7 winners, going top of a pool that includes heavyweights New Zealand and South Africa.

“I thought we just didn’t finish our opportunities,” Jones told reporters. “If we had taken a gift under the posts then that changes the shape of the game, not just the scoreboard, but unfortunately we didn’t take those chances.”

Heaton’s gaffe was not the only mistake made by the North Americans in a 20-minute first-half spell, missing two other clear-cut chances to score as DTH van der Merwe created space down the left wing, and when the Canadians wasted a three-on-one chance the momentum swung back to the Italians who duly capitalized.

A positive Jones, however, stressed his side had occasionally ripped the Six Nations side apart and they could take confidence from that going into their matches against the All Blacks and Springboks.

“Full credit to the players for creating those opportunities, because we have something to build on there,” Jones said. “We left a lot of points out there and I think the scoreboard flattered Italy a little bit.”

Ardron added that it had been “pretty frustrating” to create so many opportunities against a tier one nation and not finish them off.

“It is something we have battled with for years and years and we’re not happy with it,” Ardron said. “It’s something that we have to review and work on.

“I think we’re getting better. We’re chasing it and hoping to get there, but if we can get guys playing rugby regularly then they’ll finish things like that off.

“It’s a game of 1% at this level.”

Editing by Tony Lawrence

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