Canada’s 15-woman team survived a late push from Italy to prevail 34-24 in front of an enthusiastic home crowd at Starlight Stadium on Sunday.
The game marks the first time the women’s 15-team team has played at home in seven years, and the home crowd was treated to a flurry of goals and a solid defense from the home side.
Canada got off to a flying start when early pressure from the home team landed Paige Farries in the corner and missed the conversion. Italy responded almost immediately with a converted try and made it 7-5 after 15 minutes.
But then a grubber kick behind Italy caused the team a whole heap of trouble as Canada grabbed the ball inches from the line. Strong carries from the forwards gave Canada a quick ball and nimble hands, allowing Sarah Kaljuvee to land for Canada’s second try, with Brianna Miller scoring the conversion after the first quarter of the game to make it 12-7 for Canada.
As half-time approached, Canada had to withstand intense pressure from Italy, with the home side repelling attack after attack. But Italy eventually broke through to score the try in the corner. Since Italy misses the changeover, the score is 12:12 at half-time.
Two tries from Canada just after the half put them a comfortable 26-12 lead after 52 minutes, with first Emily Tuttosi and then captain and hometown favorite Sophie de Goede touching down after heavy hitting – something head coach Kevin said Rouet noticed him. Despite the five attempts, Rouet said the team needs to work on becoming more clinical.
“We also have a moment to learn when to play, when to offload and when not to. So again, as we have to find the limit, we have to find a balance of when to try and when to just be more clinical. So we’re closer than before, we’re better than before – last tournament but we still have to improve.”
The teams then traded tries, with first Italy and then Farries scoring their second and Canada’s fifth try to make it 31-17. Canada appeared to be cruising until Italy scored a late try with five minutes remaining, tensing the air around Starlight Stadium.
But those worries were so quashed that the dependable de Goede converted a penalty from the right forward to give Canada daylight and victory. The final result was Canada 34-24 Italy.
“It was absolutely amazing and after the game just being able to go into the stands and hug my mum and dad… all my family and friends, it’s just honest and open and I just enjoyed it so much,” de Goede said on the Ask what it means to play in front of a home crowd.
The game is the first of two games this summer, with the second taking place in Halifax on August 27 against Wales.
The women’s team of 15 last competed in the Pacific Four series against USA, Australia and New Zealand.
Third in the world, Canada has high hopes of winning the Women’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, which begins on October 8.
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