Maya Stewart’s hat-trick helped the Wallaroos claim only their second-ever victory over USA 58-17 while Canada could not contain New Zealand’s offensive firepower as the defending World Rugby Pacific Four Series champions picked up their second victory 52-21 on a historic night in Ottawa
World Rugby 15s Player of the Year 2022 Ruahei Dement went through Canada’s defence untouched to score her side’s second try of the match under the posts in the 14th minute after sustained pressure inside Canada’s 22 metre.
Winger Mererangi Paul added the third try four minutes later after a brilliant chip kick in the midfield by Demant was gathered by Mastercard Player of the Match Amy du Plessis, and spun through the hands to set up the try and outpace the final defender.
New Zealand controlled 70 per cent of the possession in the opening 20 minutes, taking a 21-0 lead into the first hydration break. However, the momentum would shift in favour of Canada before the half time whistle.
Captain Sophie de Goede took a quick tap from a New Zealand penalty deep inside the opponent’s territory, and proceeded to carry four defenders over the whitewash to score her team’s opening try. The number 8 de Goede added the extra two points off of her boot to bring the score to 21-7.
Forteza would not be denied a second time before the half time whistle to score Canada’s second try after a brilliant 40 metre driving maul from the Canadian forwards. Tyson Beukeboom broke free and found her teammate on the inside before she scampered the last metres to score. After another conversion from de Goede, the score at halftime was 21-14 for New Zealand.
The visitors opened the second frame with their bonus point try by outside-centre du Plessis after a brilliant snipe at the breakdown by scrumhalf Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu. The home side, however, would respond through Canada’s third try by loosehead prop Olivia DeMerchant after nearly a dozen pick-and-go attempts on the Black Ferns’ try line.
At many points throughout the match, the Canadian backline struggled to contain their opponents’ firepower when kicking away possession and Paul capitalized on an errant kick in the 57th minute to dot down her second try of the match as the visitors continued to pull away after every Canadian score.
Black Ferns captain Kennedy Simon’s thoughts on her teams’ winning ways: “We’re just trying to be innovative. It’s an incredible group of women and we’re just trying to build each week. We knew Canada was going to be a class outfit, especially with a record crowd which is not only incredible for Canadian rugby but women’s rugby as well.”
In the final twenty minutes of the match the Black Ferns pulled away with further tries from Holmes, another from du Plessis and a final from replacement winger Kelsey Teneti to secure the 52-21 win to remain undefeated in the Pacific Four Series.
Despite the loss, Canadian captain de Goede was pleased with her team’s performance in a record night:
“I’m really proud of the way that we fought back, but frustrated that we had to fight back. We put ourselves in some sticky situations and we’ve had some learnings, but what an incredible day for Canadian rugby regardless of the scoreline. It means the world to us. Rugby in Canada is as strong as it’s ever been and we’re just really glad to be a part of it and we’re really grateful for the communities we’re a part of.”
Australia 58-17 USA
Australia bounced back with an impressive 58-17 victory over USA just one week after opening their World Rugby Pacific Four Series 2023 with a 50-0 loss to their Trans-Tasman rivals from New Zealand in Brisbane.
With both sides losing their respective series openers, the clash on Saturday added equal importance in the race to qualify for WXV 1. The loser would have to win their final match of the tournament – Australia against Canada and the USA against New Zealand on 14 July to have a hope in booking their ticket to New Zealand in the fall.
The Eagles had won the previous meeting 16-14 between these two sides at last year’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand and led the all-time series five to one heading into Saturday’s action at TD Place Stadium in Canada’s capital. Despite a sizeable turnout from fans south of the border to cheer on the Eagles, the Wallaroos showed their class in the victory.
Flanker Ashley Marsters opened the scoring for Australia after sustained pressure from the forward pack in the 14th minute. The driving maul set the tone for their dominance the rest of the opening half.
Tighthead prop and Mastercard Player of the Match Eva Karpani followed suit just six minutes later off of another driving maul, giving her side a dominant 12-0 lead heading into the first much-needed hydration break.
The USA would, however, get one back in their third visit to the opposition’s 22m line. Eva Ashenbrucker used her long reach to stretch over and score her team’s first try after an impressively powerful smash through three defenders. Canadian match official Julianne Zussman elected to check with the Television Match Official, who awarded Ashenbrucker the try.
The Wallaroos made short work of USA’s seven point deficit just four minutes later by scoring a sensational team try finished off by Karpani under the posts for her first-half brace. Coach Jay Tregonning’s forwards weren’t done yet in the opening half as they proceeded to touch down one more time from a driving maul by hooker Adiana Talakai who dove over in the 37th minute.
Inside-centre Cecilia Smith, who was good for 11 points in the victory, slotted a further penalty goal on the stroke of half-time to give the Australians a 27-5 lead at the break.
With the bonus point in the bag, Australia picked up right where they left off after the break when Maya Stewart dotted down the first of her hat-trick on the day. Smith made the original line break and offloaded to Talakai who then found Georgina Friedrichs as the Wallaroos went through the hands to score their fifth try of the match.
However, USA refused to cave. Winger Jennine Detiveaux responded with two impressive tries of her own in the 51st and 74th minutes, both highlighted by a world-class fend on the final defender before diving over.
USA Eagles captain Kate Zackary said after the loss: “One of our mottos is one percent better every day and you can only do that by getting a few minutes on the pitch. The training pitch is really important but the game is where it all comes to life and where you have some hard moments but also the biggest growing moments, so that’s what we’re looking on to now.”
Australia’s backline continued their second-half onslaught as Ivania Wong and Friedrichs each scored in the final half hour, while Stewart added two final tries in the victory.
Australian captain Michaela Leonard on the bounce back from last weekend’s loss to New Zealand and thoughts on facing Canada next Friday: “The messaging before the game was that we knew we didn’t put the performance out there and we didn’t perform the skills and execution that we know that we can. Turning around from a 50-nil loss isn’t easy, but I think that was true Australian grit.
“We know that Canada is going to come out with a physical game and we also know they’re really strong in set piece so that’ll be a focus for us and a new challenge to take on next week.”
The final round of the World Rugby Pacific Four Series 2023 kicks off Friday, 14 July at 16:00 (GMT -4) with New Zealand facing USA before Canada take on Australia at 19:00 at TD Place Stadium.
Friday’s matches will be available to stream via the World Rugby website where a local broadcast deal is not in place. – WORLD RUGBY