June 21st, 2024

Canadian women make rugby history with win over the Black Ferns in New Zealand

By The Canadian Press on May 19, 2024.

Canadian players celebrate as the holds the Pacific Four Series Trophy aloft after defeating the New Zealand Black Ferns during the Pacific Four Series rugby match in Christchurch, New Zealand, Sunday, May 19, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Photosport, John Davidson

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand – At the Rugby World Cup in 2022, Canada pushed top-ranked England to the limit before falling 26-19 in the semifinal. eventually finishing fourth at the tournament.

On Sunday, the Canadian women took the next step with a historic 22-19 victory over New Zealand, winning the Pacific Four Series and replacing the Black Ferns at No. 2 in the world rankings behind England.

“I feel like we’ve been knocking on the door and pushing to make a statement on the world stage for Canada for a while now,” said captain Sophie de Goede.

The Canadian women had lost all 17 previous meetings with the Black Ferns, with 10 of those defeats by 27 points or more. The six-time world champions won 52-21 the last time they met, last July in Ottawa in the same tournament.

The closest Canada has come to a win was a 16-8 loss in Tauranga in June 2014, a match that marked the only other time New Zealand had failed to score 20 points against the Canadians.

The Canadians ended that run of futility with a resolute defence and opportunistic attack in an entertaining, hard-hitting game on a chilly afternoon at Apollo Projects Stadium.

Canada made 227 tackles compared to Black Ferns’ 89.

The Black Ferns’ discipline was poor throughout the game, conceding 14 penalties and yellow cards to Sylvia Brunt in the 39th minute and Aldora Itunu in the 77th minute.

“I still don’t have words for it. It hasn’t sunk in yet. We’ve hit so many milestones tonight,” said veteran forward Tyson Beukeboom, who earned a Canadian women’s record 68th cap. “We knew we could do it. We just had to go out on the field and put the game down, and we did, and I think proud is probably the best word at the moment.

“It was so much fun to be out there tonight.”

Fancy Bermudez scored two tries and McKinley Hunt added a single for Canada. De Goede kicked two conversions and a penalty.

Katelyn Vahaakolo scored two tries and Patricia Maliepo added one for New Zealand, which led 14-3 in the first half. Ruahei Demant booted two conversions.

Canada started the tournament at No. 4 in the rankings, but moved past France into No. 3 after beating Australia 33-14. Second in the rankings is its highest-ever position (last reached in November 2016).

“We worked so hard for the last, well it feels like for ever, and then having this outcome,” said an emotional Canadian prop DaLeaka Menin, who earned her 55th cap.

The Black Ferns have never been lower than No. 2 in the rankings, which were introduced in February 2016.

“We let them get on top of us,” said New Zealand co-captain Kennedy Simon. “Just little things that we could have fixed. Congratulations to them.”

New Zealand led 14-10 after an all-action first half that showcased a physical Canadian defence led by de Goede. The Canadians made 103 tackles in a hard-nosed half, compared to 46 for the Black Ferns.

Ill-discipline cost New Zealand which conceded 14 penalties on total and had players sent to the sin bin in each half.

Hunt put Canada ahead 15-14 as she went over at the back of the Canadian maul in the 45th minute off a lineout arising from a New Zealand penalty.

With Brunt in the sin bin, Bermudez then cut through the New Zealand defence from close range to up the lead to 22-14 after some fine work by the Canadian forwards.

Canada appeared to have increased the lead to 29-14 in the 64th minute after a fine run and off-load by Paige Farries set up Alex Tessier to go over. De Goede kicked the conversion but the try was negated after the television match official prompted a second look and eventual ruling that Canadian defender Shoshanah Seumanutafa had obstructed a New Zealand tackler.

The Black Ferns kept coming and the Canadian defence withstood a prolonged 35-phase attack only to have scrum half Olivia Apps sent to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle. That meant Canada had to defend its 22-14 lead a player down.

New Zealand’s Maliepo went over in the corner in the 73rd minute to cut the lead to 22-19.

“We were in control until the end, so it was good to see that. It was a very good collective performance for sure,” said Canada coach Kevin Rouet. “They stayed together, they did long, long, long phases of defence. They didn’t break.”

Beukeboom led Canada out on her record occasion, moving her past retired Rugby Canada Hall of Famer Gillian Florence for first place among Canadian women in cap count.

Canada opened tournament play with a 50-7 win over the United States on April 28 in Carson, Calif., before dispatching Australia last Saturday in Sydney. That win secured Canada’s spot in the top division of the WXV tournament, which Vancouver is hosting in September-October.

The top three teams in the Pacific Four Series will join No. 1 England, No. 4 France and No. 9 Ireland – the top three teams in the recent Women’s Six Nations – in the top division of the WXV.

Rouet improved his record as coach to 17-7-0 with the losses all coming at the hands of higher-ranked teams: England (four times), New Zealand (twice) and France.

New Zealand has now lost three of its last five games (with the other losses coming to England to France) after a 16-match win streak.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 19, 2024

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