Canada centre Sarah Ulmer made amends for her yellow card by scoring a try within minutes of the restart to kick-start the visitors recovery to an 18-8 victory in the first of two Florida tests with USA that form the Atlantic Cup series.
Ulmer was sent to the sin bin by referee Chris Henshall in the 22nd minute and from the resultant penalty fly half Hannah Stolba increased the home side's advantage to 8-0 after wing Nathalie Marchino had opened the scoring 10 minutes earlier with a breakaway try in the corner.
The Women's Eagles were unable to make their extra man count and the score remained that way until half time with the handling errors from both sides making for a scrappy stop-start match between the North American rivals at the Late Parker Park in Lakeland, Florida, on Tuesday.
Ulmer, though, made amends for her earlier indiscretion when she spotted a gap in the home defence and touched down under the posts in the 44th minute, Anna Schnell kicking the conversion to bring Canada to within a point of the USA.
Self belief key for Canada
The match remained a tight affair between two sides accustomed to playing each other regularly, but just past the hour mark Schnell kicked Canada into the lead for the first time with a penalty. The fly half then added another in the 73rd minute.
The USA kept pressing in the visitors' half looking for a try to at least tie the scores and give them a chance to repeat their last gasp 15-10 victory - their first since 2006 - at last year's Nations Cup on Canadian soil, but it was not to be.
Instead it was Canada who had the final say with the ball finding its way to wing Cheryl Phillips, who charged down the touchline to score her side's second try and seal a confidence boosting victory as both side's build towards Women's Rugby World Cup 2010 in England in August.
"I made them work really hard during that 10-minute period and they were brilliant," admitted Ulmer of her time off the field. "They absorbed the pressure, the goal-line defence and belief in each other and work rate was fantastic.
"We had self belief, but credit to the Americans as they're very organised - good pressure, continuity and phase play. Our challenge now is to put together back-to-back performances because that's how it will be at the World Cup with a very short turnaround."
USA coach Kathy Flores, a World Cup winner herself as a player back in 1991, acknowledged there is plenty for her side to improve on come the second test at the same venue on Saturday after the two nation's Under 20 sides come face to face in a curtain raise.
"In the first half the big difference was we were really moving forward and we needed to use the wind to our benefit. We didn't take advantage of the conditions as well as we should have," Flores admitted.
"I thought we came out hard initially, but in the second half we seemed a bit complacent. Instead of pushing ourselves we started accepting and we started getting on the back foot.
"Canada definitely dominated us at the point of contact, which was something we had been working on heading into the game.
"The Canadians are an aggressive team and we need to use this experience to improve our mental and physical toughness. This [performance] will not fly in a World Cup.
"It's great that we have such great opposition to push us, but we have to come out in the win column."
USA: 1. Farrah Douglas 2. Mari Wallace 3. Naima Reddick 4. Jillion Potter 5. Sharon Blaney 6. Melanie Denham 7. Phaidra Knight 8. Kate Daley 9. Kim Magrini (captain) 10. Hannah Stolba 11. Nathalie Marchino 12. Melissa Kanuk 13. Emilie Bydwell 14. Ashley Kmiecik 15. Christy Ringgenberg.
Replacements: 16. Jamie Burke 17. Kitt Wagner 18. Blair Groefsema 19. Kristin Zdanczewicz 20. Claudia Braymer 21. Stephanie Bruce 22. Ashley English.
Try: Nathalie Marchino
Penalty: Hannah Stolba
CANADA: 1. Leslie Cripps (captain) 2. Leslie McKenzie 3. Marlene Donaldson 4.
Marie-Eve Brindamour-Carignan 5. Megan Gibbs 6. Barbara Mervin 7. Gillian Florence 8. Kelly Russell 9. Laura Stoughton 10. Anna Schnell 11. Cheryl Phillips 12. Sarah Ulmer 13. Mandy Marchak 14. Julianne Zussman 15. Ashley Patzer.
Replacements: 16: Kim Donaldson 17. Corinne Jacobsen 18. Paige Burdett 19. Jen Kish 20. Julia Sugawara 21. Andrea Burk 22. D'Arcy Patterson.
Tries: Sarah Ulmer, Cheryl Phillips
Conversion: Anna Schnell
Penalties: Anna Schnell (2)
Yellow card: Sarah Ulmer (22)