Canadian women down U.S. 26-13 to sweep two-game rugby series in Colorado

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GLENDALE, COLORADO — Sophie de Goede scored 11 points to help Canada to a 26-13 victory over the U.S. in a women's rugby test match Friday night.

The Canadians won 15-9 when the two met Monday in the first of the two Pacific Four Series tests at Infinity Stadium. The series is a new women's competition that will launch in full next year with four teams competing.

The two matches were the first tests for the third-ranked Canadians and sixth-ranked Americans since they played Nov. 20 and 24, 2019, at the Can-Am Series in Chula Vista, Calif. Canada won both games, 19-0 and 52-27.

De Goede, Courtney Holtkamp, Alex Ellis and Karen Paquin scored tries for Canada, which led 19-10 after a frenetic first half. De Goede also kicked three conversions.

Captain Kate Zackary scored a try for the U.S. Gabby Cantorna booted a conversion and two penalties.

Canada was reduced to 14 players in the 63rd minute after lock Laetitia Royer was sent off for a second yellow card, this time for a high tackle.

Despite being a woman down, Canada increased its lead to 26-13 when Paquin beat at least three defenders with a fine solo effort to score a converted try in the 69th minute.

"It's absolutely amazing just to be back with the team. We spent a lot of time apart, trying to be on Zoom together and just get connected," said Canadian captain Laura Russell.

"We're proud that we gutted it out and took the win," she added.

The Canadian women head to Britain to face No. 1 England at Twickenham Stoop in London on Nov. 14 and No. 11 Wales on Nov. 21 at Cardiff Arms Park.

It was 21 degrees Celsius at kickoff Friday, which was a pleasant change from just three degrees on Monday.

The U.S. went ahead in the second minute after winning a penalty and kicking for touch. They set up a driving maul but broke away quickly to attack the line with Zackary, a hard-running No. 8, crossing the try-line.

Canada responded quickly with de Goede bulling her way over from close-range and kicking the conversion to tie it at 7-7. Holtkamp made it 12-7 in the eighth minute, fending off U.S. fullback McKenzie Hawkins after a fine run down the left flank.

Cantorna cut the lead to 12-10 with a 28th-minute penalty after Canada was judged to have slowed down the breakdown.

De Goede set the stage for an Ellis try in the 30th minute with a powerful run that the prop finished off from in-close. De Goede's conversion extended the Canadian lead to 19-10.

Referee Kat Roche warned the Canadians for persistent infringement in the 32nd minute. But it was the Americans in trouble next with flanker Elizabeth Cairns sent to the sin-bin in the 38th minute for a professional foul.

Canada attacked the U.S. end as the half wound down but the Americans got a reprieve when the Canadians were penalized for the tackler not releasing.

A scrum penalty set the stage for another Cantorna penalty in the 44th minute, cutting Canada's lead to 19-13.

Canada was warned again for taking too many penalties in the 47th minute. And Roche followed through in the 50th, sending Royer to the sin-bin.

Another ruck infringement led to a U.S. quick-tap penalty and close call for Canada when U.S. winger Bulou Mataitoga. on the verge of scoring in the corner, lost the handle on the ball.

Canada coach Sandro Fiorino made 11 changes to his starting 15 changing the tight five with only flankers Holtkamp and Paquin retaining their place in the starting 15.

De Goede, who excelled after coming on for the injured Janna Slevinsky four minutes into Monday's match, started at No. 8.

In the backs, fullback Emily Belchos de Goede switched to fly half and Paige Farries moved from centre to wing.

U.S. coach Rob Cain made seven personnel and two positional changes to his starting lineup from Monday’s match.

Canada has won seven of its last eight matches with the U.S. But before Monday, Canada’s last five wins had all been by at least 19 points.

The game marked the test refereeing debut for Roche. In July, the Texas native became the first female to referee a Major League Rugby game.

An assistant referee in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2017 and 2018, she joined the MLR refereeing ranks in 2019 as an assistant referee and worked her way up the ranks.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 6, 2021

The Canadian Press

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