A strong second-half performance by a rejuvenated Canadian side gave the hosts a 34-24 victory over Italy in a women’s international rugby 15s test match at Starlight Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Tied 12-12 at halftime, Canada struck twice in the first 10 minutes of the second half in the match featuring world-ranked No. 4 Canada and No. 6-rated Italy. The teams will be situated in the same pool at the upcoming World Cup in New Zealand in October.
Canada’s dominant pack powered its way to two early scores and a 26-12 advantage as Emily Tuttosi of Souris, Man., and hometown product and team captain, Sophie de Goede, of Victoria, punched in tries with some strong work up front. Both scores were converted by Brianna Miller of Pointe-Claire, Que.
Sara Tounesi kept Italy’s hopes alive with a try 58 minutes in, but Canada flexed its muscle again off a lineout as the pack powered its way in eight minutes later to extend the lead to 31-17 when Paige Farries of Red Deer recorded her second try of the game.
Italian captain Elisa Giordano took advantage of a poor Canadian lineout with five minutes remaining and the Sofia Stefan conversion made it 31-24 Canada. But de Goede added a penalty kick with just a few minutes left to clinch the victory.
The game began well for Canada, which opened a 5-0 lead seven minutes into the contest as Farries punched in a try to set a strong early tone with a clinical start for the home side.
However, Italy responded quickly when Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi parted a red sea of Canadian defenders from beyond midfield and scampered in for a lengthy score on a counter attack off a long Canadian kick. The convert put the visitors up 7-5 nine minutes into the first half.
Ten minutes later, Sara Kaljuvee of Ajax, Ont., recorded Canada’s second try from five metres out to regain the lead and Miller split the uprights for the conversion — after striking a post on her first effort from a horrendous angle — for a 12-7 lead.
Canada’s pack showed its dominance early and its defence was challenged 30 minutes in as the hosts thwarted an Italian threat near its touch line. Key tackles from de Goede and Fabiola Forteza of Quebec City kept the visitors at bay after a lineout from five metres out went to the Azzurri’s favour.
Italy pressured yet again and Maria Magatti finally broke through for a second try just before halftime to tie it at 12-12 after the conversion fell short.
Afterwards, De Goede was named player of the match, much to the delight of the home fans.
Aside from the highly anticipated matchup between the top-ranked teams it was also Canada’s first 15s game on home soil in seven years. It will be followed by a second international test match as Canada welcomes No. 9-ranked Wales in Halifax on Aug. 27 in these coast-to-coast preps.