Canada continued their preparations for Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 with a second victory over neighbours USA in the space of a week to wrap up the CanAm Series crown with an emphatic 76-15 score on aggregate.
Canada, runners-up at WRWC 2014 in France, had scored five second-half tries in the first game at the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Centre in San Diego last Tuesday to win 39-5 and were equally comfortable with a 37-10 win on Saturday.
The two victories mean that the head-to-head between the two nations, 30 years after they first met, now sits at 18 wins apiece.
They have also had an impact on the World Rugby Women's Rankings with the heavy defeats suffered on home soil resulting in the Women's Eagles slipping one place to eighth with Spain the beneficiaries.
Canada have improved their rating by just over a point but still remain two points behind second-ranked England.
The Canadians came out firing and controlled the pace of the game for the first half with their dominance in the scrum very evident, captain Kelly Russell opening the scoring in the fourth minute when she picked up from the base of the scrum and powered over.
Full-back Julianne Zussman went over out wide after Canada worked an overlap and former World Rugby Women’s Player of the Year Magali Harvey crossed for her side’s third try to make it 17-0 at half-time.
Learning curve for youthful USA
The Women’s Eagles needed to score first after the break and did so when flanker Christiane Pheil found Naya Tapper with one defender the beat and the winger duly dotted down, only for Harvey to kick a penalty to make it 20-5.
Prop Catherine Benson reached over the line for the hosts’ second try but 20-10 was as close as they got to Canada with fly-half Emily Belchos handing off a defender to score herself before placed a perfect grubber for winger Elissa Alarie to race onto and touch down.
Harvey had the final say while replacement front-row Jamila Reinhardt was in the sin-bin.
Despite the two defeats, USA coach Pete Steinberg was still able to draw positives from what will be his side’s last test outing before Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 kicks off in Ireland on 9 August with world champions England, Italy and Spain awaiting them in Pool B.
“We’re a young team that’s shown flashes of what we can do, we just haven’t done it consistently,” reasoned Steinberg. “For us it’s about building that consistency, which is what you get with a young team. You can see our decision-making is effected by that. When we make the right choices, we’re able to play really well.
“I walk away from the series excited about the potential of this team but also challenged by the work it’s going to take to fulfil that potential by August. We’re going to find time to get these players together.”
Canada now return home to prepare for a tournament in New Zealand in June when they will face the Black Ferns, Australia and world champions England, the perfect preparations for WRWC 2017 in the eyes of coach Francois Ratier.
“We've done it before, just before Women's Rugby World Cup in 2014. We are going to play England, Australia and New Zealand in the same format as a World Cup which is a game every four or five days,” Ratier explained.
“We will play the top two ranked teams in the world in a two-week spell only a month before the Women's Rugby World Cup - we couldn't ask for more. Most of the group have already played there, but for the youngsters swimming in New Zealand culture will be amazing!”
Canada will face four-time former winners New Zealand as well as Wales and tournament debutants Hong Kong at WRWC 2017.