Canada took control of the Can-Am Series 2017 with an entertaining 39-5 victory over neighbours USA in the first match of a campaign that will climax with Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland in August.
Canada, runners-up to England at WRWC 2014 in France, scored five second-half tries to put one hand on the trophy ahead of the second match at the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center in Chula Vista, California, on Saturday.
A clear day in Californa saw both teams playing a physical style of rugby and one more symbolic of the sevens game with powerful runs met by strong tackles as well as quick passes, grubbers and chip kicks to often put the defence on the back foot.
Flanker Karen Paquin went close to opening the scoring for Canada in the 11th minute only from strong defence to force her into touch, but she was not to be denied 14 minutes when the visitors blocked a kick and put the Olympic bronze medallist over the line.
The USA Women’s Eagles’ response was swift and minutes later a strong scrum and break from number eight Jordan Gray created space for sevens captain Alev Kelter to ultimately score her first test try out wide, the missed conversion leaving the scores tied at 5-5.
Canada hit the front again when they went through the phases until prop Carolyn McEwen crossed before half-time to send her side in with a 10-5 advantage and the loss of flanker Christiane Pheil to an early yellow card after the break didn’t help the home side.
Tale of two halves
Two tries in five minutes, from replacement Tyson Beukeboom and captain Kelly Russell, strengthened Canada’s grip on the match, but they weren’t done there with Beukeboom completing her hat-trick just past the hour mark to make it 32-5.
There was still time for another replacement Brianna Miller to cross for Canada’s seventh try of the afternoon to close out a match which left both coaches with aspects to be pleased with and areas to work on.
“We came out with some real intensity in the first half,” USA coach Pete Steinberg said. “Unfortunately we didn’t come out with that same intensity in the second half. There’s some learning that happens with a team that’s young like we are.
“We have to help our players manage their intensity throughout the game; something we’ll work on for Saturday.
"Heading into Saturday, it's about consistency and understanding what we’re trying to do. The Canadians showed their experience by taking it to us in the second half. We were able to respond in pieces, but not consistently.”
His Canadian counterpart Francois Ratier added: “When you play the Americans, you need to respond to their physicality first and then you can play a bit wider. We didn’t perform in the first half, but the second one was better. We knew our scrum would keep us in the game. To perform on Saturday we will have to be better in reading and executing.”
Photo credit: Paul Rudman