Canada’s women’s 15s team survived a late push from Italy to come out on top 34-24 in front of a bouncing home crowd at Starlight Stadium Sunday.
The game is the first time the women’s 15s team has played at home in seven years and the home crowd was treated to a flurry of scores and some hearty defence from the home team.
Canada got off to a roaring start as early pressure from the home team saw Paige Farries dot down in the corner with the conversion missed. Italy responded almost right away with a converted try, making the score 7-5 after 15 minutes.
But then a grubber kick in behind Italy caused the team a whole heap of problems as Canada recovered the ball inches from the line. Strong carries from the forwards gave Canada quick ball and swift hands and allowed Sarah Kaljuvee to dot down for Canada’s second try, with Brianna Miller making the conversion to make the score Canada 12-7 after the first quarter of the match.
As half-time approached Canada had to withstand immense pressure from the Italians, with the home team repelling attack after attack. But Italy eventually broke through to score the try in the corner. With Italy missing the conversion, the score is tied 12-12 at half-time.
Two tries from Canada quickly after the half saw them power to a commanding 26-12 lead after 52 minutes, with first Emily Tuttosi and then captain and hometown favourite Sophie de Goede touching down after powerful mauls – something head coach Kevin Rouet said stood out for him. Despite the five tries, Rouet said the team needed to work on being more clinical.
“We also need to learn a moment when we need to play, when we need to offload and when we don’t. So again, like we need to find the limit, we need to find a balance like when you have to try it and when you have to be just more clinical. So we are closer than before, we are better than before – last tournament, but we still need to improve.”
The teams then exchanged tries with first Italy then Farries dotting down for her second and Canada’s fifth try to make the score 31-17. Canada appeared to be cruising until Italy scored a late try with five minutes left, adding tension to the air around Starlight Stadium.
But those worries were so quelled as dependable de Goede slotted a penalty from right in front to give Canada daylight and the win. The final score was Canada 34-24 Italy.
“It was absolutely incredible and just being able to go up into the stands after the game and give my mom and dad a hug … all my family and friends, it’s just honest and open and I was just so reveling in it,” said de Goede when asked about what it meant to play in front of a home crowd.
The game is the first of two matches this summer, the second being against Wales in Halifax on Aug. 27.
Canada is ranked third in the world and will have high hopes of winning the Women’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, starting on Oct. 8.