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Churchill Cup (rugby) [R]

Ashton Gate

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England recapture Churchill Cup in Rugby

Wasps full-back Tom Voyce ran in two tries as England A made light work of Argentina with a comprehensive 45-16 Churchill Cup final win in Edmonton.

James Simpson-Daniel, Paul Sackey and Andy Gomarsall also crossed as the tourists reclaimed the crown they lost to New Zealand Maori last year.

Skipper Pat Sanderson was delighted with the result and said: "Winning is massively important.

"Every time you play, you play to win. My motivation hasn't been to get into the Test team, it's been to win the Churchill Cup for England.

"It's great to win the tournament. We'll go home happy because of that. We came out to do a job and now that it's done, we can welcome the end of a long season."

A crowd of 17,000 watched the final and Sanderson added: "It's very important that the Canadian public get to see international teams and high-level performances from athletes.

"The Americans and Canadians have certainly improved since last year."

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Canada loses Churchill consolation

EDMONTON (CP) - England exacted a measure of revenge at Sunday's Churchill Cup final, while Canada suffered a heartbreaking loss in the consolation.Canada tackled aggressively and used the rolling maul successfully but in the end dropped a hard-fought 20-19 decision to the United States.

England A avenged a loss in last year's tournament final by getting two of five tries from fullback Tom Voyce in dominating Argentina A 45-16 in the gold medal match before 9,503 at Commonwealth Stadium.

Canada, ranked No. 13 in the world, had a driving maul with minutes left in the match but missed a possible winning drop goal as the No. 16 Americans won for the first time in four closely contested matches.

"We didn't play that one smart," said Canadian coach Ric Suggit of the final rush. "It's the inexperience of a naive team."

Canada, which trailed the entire match, gave up two tries and scored one at 64 minutes as No. 8 Aaron Carpenter drove eight metres off a rolling maul.

"We're certainly not in tatters," said Canadian captain Mike Webb of Vancouver. "It is a mental advantage for them."

England A, a fully professional squad with seven capped starters, scored two tries in the final five minutes despite having 22 players on tour in New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions.

Argentina's main team stayed home for a test match against Italy last weekend but called in three new players for the final, including 53 cap first team regular Agustin Pichot.

England centre James Simpson Daniel opened the scoring with a try at 16 minutes before Voyce, a pro with the London Wasps, had tries at 37 and 58 minutes, giving world No. 6 England a 21-6 lead at the half.

"It felt like I didn't make any mistakes," said Voyce, who has three caps and finished the tournament with three tries. "I am delighted. Very happy."

Wing Paul Sackey had a try at 56 minutes and 23 cap scrum half Andy Gommarshall scored the final try at 81 minutes. England also had four penalties and four converts.

"I thought we stepped up our game from last week," said England captain Paul Sanderson, following a 29-5 tournament-opening win over Canada.

Miguel Avramovic, an Argentine centre with one cap, bulled in from 15 metres for a try at 46 minutes to narrow the English lead to 21-16. Argentina also had two penalties, a drop goal and conversion but were otherwise overmatched.

England improved to 9-2-2 against Argentina since 1978 and avenged a 38-0 loss to the New Zealand Maoris in the 2004 Churchill Cup final.

Both final matches were played under overcast and cool conditions. Canada fell to 2-3 this year with wins over the U.S. and Japan and losses to Wales, the U.S. and England.

"We need to find a better way to develop our players," Suggit said, whose 4-8 as Canada's coach.

Ed Fairhurst, a Victoria native who was one of six changes in Canada's starting lineup, had four penalties and a conversion, but also had the crucial drop chance from 25 metres at 78 minutes.

Mike Hercus overcame a hamstring injury to give the U.S. its first points in their final match of the year two minutes in from 20 metres before missing from the left at 38 metres two minutes later.

Hercus also connected from 28 metres from the far left at 59 minutes and had two conversions.

"We go into next year's qualifier with a psychological advantage," said Hercus.

A successful U.S. lineout at set up a try at 12 minutes as wing Mike Palefau punched the ball in from two metres over Nik Witkowski's tackle.

The US second try came at 49 minutes as 13 cap hooker Matt Wyatt went out wide to score.

"One point or 20 points - a test victory over Canada is something we always cherish," said U.S. coach Tom Billups.

Canada met the U.S. for the 39th time since 1977 and the third time in Churchill Cup competition. The Canucks fell to 27-11-1, having beat the Americans 32-29 in the 2004 consolation final to avenge a 16-11 round-robin loss at the 2003 tournament.

The Canadians changed their lineup following a 29-5 loss to England in their opening match of the tournament last Sunday. Mike Burak of Vancouver earned his first start since he played against England last November to join newcomer Josh Jackson in the second-row. Prop Casey Dunning of Calgary earned his first starting cap following an injury to loose-head prop Dan Pletch. Witkowski of Montreal moved from his usual spot and centre to right wing and Whitby's David Moonlight came in on the right left wing taking the place of Stirling Richmond, who started at fullback for the first time in his Canadian career.

Notes: Carpenter also had the lone try in Canada's opening 29-5 loss to England last Sunday. . . . Casey Dunning's parents flew in from Australia to see their son earns his first two caps. . . . Total Churchill Cup attendance was 17,065 over two Sundays. . . . England won the inaugural Churchill Cup in 2003. . . . Canada plays a test against Argentina A in Calgary July 2.

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Kudos to Canada's staging of the Churchill Cup


Joe Lydon has hailed the Churchill Cup as a crucial tool for developing players capable of leading England to a successful defence their world crown.

Victories over Canada and Argentina saw England emerge convincing winners of the Edmonton-based tournament which has now completed its third year and Lydon stressed its value ahead of the 2007 World Cup in France.

"This competition has been so important for England. We've seen several emerging players in action and that's vital to long-term success," said the former Great Britain rugby league star.

"All games below Test level are important because they give you the chance to experiment and assess players. You need to work in four-year cycles with the end goal being the World Cup.

"If it's planned properly then you can get many benefits with players starting out in the Churchill Cup and then appearing in the World Cup four years later."

Before departing for Canada, Lydon reminded critics of the Churchill Cup that past history had proved a handful of his 25-strong party would go on to become Test regulars.

The standout performers in Edmonton were Tom Voyce and James Simpson-Daniel with the Gloucester winger - who was selected at outside centre for both matches - singled out for special praise.

"There are players who have international caps already who have proved once again that they have the leadership and determination to make their mark," said Lydon.

"But if I had to pick one player out, which is wrong and hard to do, then James Simpson-Daniel has proved himself. He has had a hard season as far as injuries are concerned, but he has proved eager and able to take his chance.

"If he gets another chance with England then I think he will take it. Pat Sanderson, Andy Gomarsall and Perry Freshwater have all had a good tour. The whole squad have used the two weeks to get into the ethos of development."

Lydon added: "Not everything has gone according to plan, but a lot of it has.

"First and foremost we came to win the trophy and we've done that. There will be some recommendations for the future, but overall it has been pleasing.

"The attitude of the players was fantastic. This was the best England squad we had available.

"The guys came together very quickly and were challenged by each other, but most pleasingly they beat Argentina in the final."

Tournament chiefs are looking to expand the competition next year to six teams with Wales, Argentina, Italy and the New Zealand Maori all hopeful of securing regular inclusion.

If the Churchill Cup is enlarged - and it is hoped it will be in time for next summer - then two pools of six will be introduced with Toronto joining Edmonton as a host city.

Rugby is still a marginal sport in Canada so only a total crowd of 17,065 watched the four matches, but it was hard to build support for the competition with the teams facing only two games in eight days.

England were based in Canada for nearly three weeks yet played just 160 minutes of rugby with some squad members seeing as little as 10 minutes of match action during their lengthy stint abroad.

The tournament was crying out for an extra clash but Lydon insisted his squad would not have been large enough to cope with the increased work load.

"We couldn't have squeezed another match in because of the number of players we had. We had to bring all the subs on because we wanted to give everyone some game time. Everyone on the tour got a match, although not all started," he said.

"You could expand the tournament but then you'd have to bring a bigger squad and extend the amount of time. It would be too much to make it three games in a week. You'd have to compromise somewhere along the line and that's a word we don't like using.

"You'd just play the games, do some rehab, play again, then rehab, and so on. There would be no real development, it would just be a string of games."

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