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Canadian women score historic rugby win, defeating World Cup champion New Zealand

Women's historic rugby win

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — Fancy Bermudez scored two tries as Canada recorded a historic rugby win over New Zealand on Sunday, holding on to dispatch the reigning World Cup champion 22-19 and win the Pacific Four Series.

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 time New Zealand had failed to score 20 points against Canada.

"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 milestone win moved the Canadian women to No. 2 in the world rankings behind England, replacing New Zealand and equalling their highest-ever position (last reached in November 2016). Canada started the tournament at No. 4, but moved past France into No. 3 after beating Australia 33-14.

"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 entertaining first half that showcased a resolute and physical Canadian defence with de Goede leading the way. The Canadians made 103 tackles in the hard-nosed half, compared to 46 for the Black Ferns.

Penalties continued to hamper New Zealand in the second half.

But 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.

The defence held again as Canada held up a New Zealand player at the try-line, preventing another try. But Patricia Maliepo went over in the corner in the 73rd minute to cut the lead to 22-19.

New Zealand prop Aldora Itunu was sent to the sin bin with four minutes remaining, leaving both teams down a player.

McKinley Hunt also scored a try for Canada. De Goede kicked two conversions and a penalty.

Katelyn Vahaakolo scored two tries for New Zealand. Ruahei Demant booted two conversions.

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. 

The Canadians took advantage when New Zealand's Sylvia Brunt sent to the sin-bin in the 59th minute. Bermudez, in almost a repeat of her first-half score, 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 offload 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.

Veteran forward Tyson Beukeboom led Canada out on the occasion of her record 68th career cap moving her past retired Rugby Canada Hall of Famer Gillian Florence for first place among Canadian women.

Her parents flew to New Zealand to surprise her at the game, presenting her with her jersey in advance of the match. Father Jeff Beukeboom played in the NHL for the Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers, winning four Stanley Cups.

The 33-year-old lock from Uxbridge, Ont., won her first cap in July 2013 against England in Denver. Canada won 29-25, marking its first-ever victory over the Red Roses. 

The Canadian women stood arm in arm, watching as the Black Ferns performed the haka before kickoff at Apollo Projects Stadium. It was a chilly nine C at kickoff, feeling like seven degrees.

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.

The win over the Wallaroos 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.

Kevin Rouet improved his record as Canada 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.

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



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