WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Captain Sophie de Goede scored 17 points as Canada defeated Wales 42-22 in the opening game of the new WXV 15-year women’s rugby tournament on Saturday.
De Goede, who was named man of the match, was a force running with the ball and disrupting the Welsh attack.
“Sophie was great,” said Canada coach Kevin Rouet. “She leads the team on and off the field.”
The WXV is a new three-tier annual competition where fourth-place Canadians compete in the elite WXV 1. WXV 2 and 3 are already taking place in South Africa and Dubai respectively.
De Goede, Sara Svoboda, Maddie Grant, McKinley Hunt, Gillian Boag and Sarah-Maude Lachance scored tries for Canada, which led 21-17 at halftime. De Goede added six conversions.
Carys Phillips, Georgia Evans and Alex Callender scored tries for Wales No.6, whose cause was not helped by penalties. Keira Bevan scored two conversions and a penalty.
Canada improved to 10-2-2 against Wales, whose last win over the Canadians was a 16-11 decision in Cardiff in 2006.
The top WXV rankings include the top three teams from the Women’s Six Nations (England, France, Wales) and the top three teams from the Pacific Four Series. The Canadians qualified by finishing second to No. 2 New Zealand in the Pacific Four Series that ended in Ottawa in July. No. 5 Australia finished third.
The Canadians, whose set pieces were solid all game, face top-ranked England in Dunedin on October 27 and No. 3 France in Auckland on November 3.
“There is a lot of belief in our team that we can be one of the best teams in the world and we really want to prove that to everyone in world rugby,” said de Goede.
England defeated Australia 42-7 in the opening game of the tournament.
At kick-off at 4 p.m. local time, it was a gusty 14 degrees Celsius in the Sky Stadium.
Canada took the lead with a converted try in the fifth minute and moved down the pitch thanks to two Welsh penalties. De Goede eventually fought his way through a lineout near the Welsh try line after a series of attacks.
Wales equalized three minutes later after a penalty against the Canadians allowed him to shoot into the corner. Phillips, the hooker, went over the line from the lineout on a set piece, which caught the Canadiens napping.
Wales full-back Jasmine Joyce made a try-saving tackle in the 22nd minute, stopping Canadian winger Florence Symonds in full flight on the left touchline. A penalty from Bevan made it 10-7 for Wales in the 28th minute.
Svoboda went over from close range and capped a Canadian attack with a converted try in the 31st minute, putting Canada back in the lead at 14-10. The Canadians made it 21-10 in the 38th minute when Grant touched down from a set piece and Symonds, who was a strong attacking threat throughout the game, was able to break through the Welsh defense.
Wales responded a minute late to an interception attempt by Evans and reduced the deficit to 21-17.
Hunt crashed under the post in the 49th minute, extending Canada’s lead. Another Welsh penalty paved the way for Boag, who scored from close range to make it 35:17 in the 68th minute.
A Callender try in the 74th minute reduced the lead to 35-22. But another Welsh penalty led to a set piece near the Welsh try line and de Goede set up Lachance for a final try in the corner in the 78th minute.
The Canadian women suffered defeats to England last month, 50-24 and 29-12. However, they had won their last six meetings with Wales by an average margin of 25 points.
The game was a milestone for English referee Sara Cox, who herself becomes the most capped referee in Test history. She shared the record with South African Aimee Barrett-Theron.
Rouet made three changes to the forwards and five to defense from the starting lineup in his team’s last game, the 29-12 loss to England on September 30. Two of the changes involved players not being available for the trip to New Zealand.
Wales coach Ioan Cunningham fielded the same starting lineup that beat seventh-placed USA 38-18 at Colwyn Bay on September 30.
Canada finished fourth at last year’s World Cup, losing to England 26-19 in the semifinals and France 36-0 in the third-place game. Wales were eliminated in the quarter-finals, losing 55-3 to eventual champions New Zealand.
Canadian Ashlynn Smith came off the bench to earn her first cap.
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