Canada bounces back in second half win over USA women
Canada’s National Senior Women's Team reversed their first-half fortunes and defeated the Americans, 18 – 8, in the first of two tests in Lakeland, Florida.
Deft goal kicking by fly-half Anna Schnell saw Canada erase an eight-point deficit and a shady first 40 to win the 24th meeting between the two rivals.
The referees’ whistle and unforced ball-handling errors by both squads were the antagonists of this story, and the US did well to pressure the Canadians, especially around the breakdown.
A quick-tap penalty taken on Canada’s 5m line caught the visiting side off-guard and American wing Nathalie Marchino was able to cross in the corner. USA fly-half Hannah Stolba was unable to convert from the sideline.
Around the 20th minute, Canada centre Sarah Ulmer was awarded a yellow card in front of the posts for a repeated infraction, and to Ulmer’s dismay, Stolba easily split the uprights on the ensuing penalty, bringing the score to 8 – 0.
While Canada was a player short, captain Leslie Cripps and legendary Gillian Florence led the way in their team’s strong defensive effort. Flanker Barbara Mervin took a cue from the veterans and upped her tackle count, including flattening an American on Canada’s 5m line.
The half-time whistle blew shortly after Canada returned to full strength with USA maintaining an eight-point lead.
Minus the initial penalty, Canada made sure the scoreboard was unscathed while Ulmer was sin-binned, but she took it upon herself to make it up to her team.
Spotting a half-gap in around the 60th minute, Ulmer touched it down under the posts for Canada’s first points of the match. Schnell would begin her mini-clinic with the conversion.
The game stayed tight as USA made Canada work hard for their subsequent points.
Set piece was crucial with the number of whistles, and after Lesley McKenzie’s absence in France, Canada’s lineout warmly welcomed the hooker back.
Canada’s forwards have been a consistent bunch since August and played well again today.
Flanker Jen Kish wasted no time when she came on for Florence in the second half, evading several would-be US tacklers and off-loading to create space for wing Cheryl Phillips. Phillips has scored in each of her last two international starts, including Canada’s historic win over France.
Schnell missed the difficult conversion, but was successful on an earlier penalty, bringing the tally to 18 – 8 in Canada’s favor.
After the match, Ulmer was complimentary of her side’s performance, especially while she was off the pitch.
“I made them work really hard during that 10 minute period and they were brilliant. They absorbed the pressure, the goal-line defense and belief in each other and work rate was fantastic.”
Ulmer was classically Canadian as she deflected any praise, opting instead to look ahead to the end of the four-year tunnel.
“We had self-belief but credit to the Americans as they’re very organized; 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.”
Even though the emphasis had been on development at the Nations Cup in August, Canada’s confidence waned a little when they finished fourth, including their first loss to the USA since 2006.
But after splitting a pair of tests in November with third-ranked France and the most recent victory over the US, Canada is cautiously optimistic about the direction they are heading.
USA and Canada will play again on Saturday, January 16th at 3pm following a 1pm kick off between the USA U20s and Canada U20s.
Tries: Nathalie Marchino
Pens: Hannah Stolba
Tries: Sarah Ulmer, Cheryl Phillips
Cons: Anna Schnell
Pens: Anna Schnell (2)
HT: USA 8 – 0 Canada
YC: Ulmer (22mins)
FRANK UIJLENBROEK WORLDSPORTPICS