TORONTO -- Liam Underwood could have been playing for Queen's University on the weekend, looking to take down the Western Mustangs in the OUA rugby final.
Instead the 22-year-old fly half found himself starting for Canada against the New Zealand Maori All Blacks.
The Kiwis, a renowned invitational side of Maori descent, showed their superiority in scoring six tries en route to a 40-15 win Sunday over a depleted Canadian side.
"They're fast," said Underwood, a fourth-year economics student from Toronto. "That's the fastest rugby I've played in a long time. Or ever, probably."
Making just his third start while earning his sixth cap for Canada, Underwood survived a crunching 14th-minute tackle that may have had friends and family cringing in the stands.
"That's rugby," he said with a smile later. "You get hit."
He also noted that his Queen's team hadn't needed him in the OUA final, defeating the Mustangs 40-10.
Both Canada and the Maori made plenty of mistakes. That was perhaps not surprising for a Maori side that only had a few practices under its belt since coming together a week ago. But for Canada, it probably demonstrated what can happen under the pressure of facing elite opposition.
Jamison Gibson-Park, a late addition to the Maori starting lineup when veteran scrum half Piri Weepu was ruled out in the pre-game warmup with a knee problem sustained in training, scored two tries for the visitors.
Zac Guildford, Robbie Robinson, Matt Proctor and Nick Barrett also scored tries for the Maori. Andre Taylor and Robinson each kicked two conversions with Ihaia West contributing another conversion. Guildford was named man of the match.
Jeff Hassler and captain Aaron Carpenter scored tries for Canada. Underwood contributed a penalty and a conversion.
While Canada lost, you could argue Canadian rugby still emerged a winner. A sellout crowd of 22,566 showed up on a sunny, crisp six-degree day at BMO Field.
Rugby Canada said it was a record crowd for a rugby game in North America.
And the Canadians' open style of play drew praise from the visitors.
"They played really well, especially in that first 40 (minutes), they shocked us with their style of attack," said Maori captain and fly half Tim Bateman, a veteran of 50-plus Super Rugby games. "We expected them to be a little more narrow and brutal, but they played with a lot of width and a lot of intensity..."
-- The Canadian Press