Young guns prove they can cut it at the highest level – Kiss
CANADA 14, IRELAND 40
When the 2012/13 season is filed away, this two-match tour will be buried in the footnotes, but Les Kiss can hand over the reins to Joe Schmidt on a relative high.
A six-try win was a nice way to end the campaign, the game an entertaining affair in which a young Ireland side learned the lessons of a week ago in Houston and looked like they enjoyed themselves. It was all very different from last year's finale in Hamilton.
Although the 20,396 crowd at the BMO Field was a Canadian record, it was clear that this match was down the social pecking order in Toronto, where Taylor Swift and Bob Dylan both played to very different crowds on Saturday night, while a tattoo convention, an Italian festival and the North by Northwest music event all competed for attention.
Rugby's place was in the shadow of events elsewhere. Kick-off was even delayed to facilitate television coverage of the US Open. Still, there were lessons to be learned for Schmidt, but what he made of it all won't be known until November when the New Zealander is installed and the Lions and injured players have returned.
Certainly, there are those who have put their hands up to be involved against Samoa in the new coach's first match in charge. Peter O'Mahony had another outstanding game, the captain leading from the front. It was stirring stuff from a 23-year-old growing into his role.
Ian Madigan gave another indication of his new place in the pecking order, while Tommy O'Donnell helped solve the breakdown issues and Devin Toner again stepped up to the plate with an impressive all-round display. Fergus McFadden's hat-trick of tries and all-round game also caught the eye.
The asterisks come from the fact that most of their opponents were amateurs and Canada, despite improvements, are distinctly second-tier. They ran out of gas on 55 minutes as Ireland powered through and, unlike the US, didn't have a player of the power, class and all-round meanness of Samu Manoa to bully Ireland.
Kiss signed off in credit after turning the deficiencies of Houston into strengths as the breakdown and line-out were pluses.
The Australian becomes part of Schmidt's backroom team and is happy to have handed over with a host of new faces blooded and another lot having been brought on a little.
"Three weeks ago we committed to getting over here and doing a job and making the most of the opportunity," he said.
"I think they've done more than that. We have worked very hard on their leadership skills, their decision-making skills and their understanding of what is required in the tough moments and to find a way to have an appetite for what is required in Test rugby.
"You don't just walk in, it is a mentality and a mindset and we found out that a lot of them are up for it, for sure.
"Look at the line-out, for Devin Toner to run a line-out in two Test matches the way he did – and, despite the troubles last week, this week he has done the work nicely – even though he was one of the guys who got crook he managed it beautifully. He did a fantastic job and Gert (Smal) is really proud of him."
It was from the line-out that Ireland's first two tries came, with Madigan using the platform he was denied in Houston to put in clever kicks to McFadden.
The first was fielded by the Leinster man and he set it up for Madigan to move the ball right where Andrew Trimble marked his 50th cap with a try. They combined again before half-time, with Isaac Boss peeling off a maul and feeding Madigan who cross-kicked for McFadden to fend off Connor Braid and score. But Canada stayed in touch through the boot of James Pritchard, who broke Gareth Rees' all-time Canadian points record with three first-half penalties, before Tyler Ardron put his side in front with a try seven minutes into the second half.
Ireland were struggling to find their fluency until Kevin McLaughlin took the game by the scruff of the neck, breaking a tackle before putting Darren Cave in under the posts; three minutes later, Dan Tuohy got away with a forearm smash on Ciaran Hearn to get through, finding Toner who off-loaded to McFadden to score.
Those two tries in three minutes broke Canadian resistance and all that was left was for the benches to empty as O'Donnell scored his first international try with a fine line-break and McFadden closed out the season by completing the first Ireland hat-trick since Kevin Maggs against Fiji in 2002.
It brought down the curtain on a tumultuous season in Irish rugby and, as a new era dawns, Kiss admitted that the past 12 months have been difficult.
"It was a tough year," he said. "60-0 some 12 months ago certainly hung there for a while.
"But all we could deal with was the here and now, and these guys had a mission, they knew the purpose.
"We made it clear to them that they really had to stand up, that if they wanted to be part of the future, if we needed to make a statement about Irish rugby, finish this off. In all honesty this was the only time we had and they did do that and it was fantastic."
He hands over to Schmidt on the back of two wins and the introduction of new faces and new leaders.
The players headed off on their holidays, while the coach began preparations for the autumn.
2012/13 can now be put to bed and there is plenty to do to turn Ireland's fortunes around. They have made a start on this tour, but there is a lot more to be done.
CANADA – C Braid (P Parfrey 62); J Pritchard, C Hearn, H Jones, T Paris; N Hirayama, P Mack (S White 62); H Buydens (A Tiedeman 73), R Barkwill (R Hamilton 55), J Marshall (D Woolridge 73); J Sinclair, T Hotson (J Phelan 69); T Ardron, J Moonlight (N Dala 62), A Carpenter (capt, L Underwood 80).
IRELAND – F Jones; F McFadden, D Cave (R Henshaw 73), J Downey, A Trimble; I Madigan (P Jackson 59), I Boss (P Marshall 56); T Court (D Kilcoyne 66), R Strauss (S Cronin 66), M Ross (D Fitzpatrick 62); D Tuohy (M McCarthy 72), D Toner; K McLaughlin (C Henry 72), T O'Donnell, P O'Mahony (capt).
Ref – L Hodges (Wales)