Bringing You the Daily Dispatch

Rusty Wallaroos suffer World Cup setback after walloping by Canada in Pacific Four series
Rugby union Sport

Rusty Wallaroos suffer World Cup setback after walloping by Canada in Pacific Four series

The Test rugby season got off to a sad and soggy start for Australia’s women’s rugby side, defeated 33-14 by world No 4 Canada in the opening match of the new Pacific Four series at Allianz Stadium in Sydney.

In her first Test as Australia’s coach after 70 caps as a player for England, Jo Yapp had the world No 5 Wallaroos primed for a bright start to the season after they closed out 2023 with historic wins over France and Wales. But Canada, having thumped the USA in April, proved far too strong, running in five-tries to one in wet conditions.

With one coveted Women’s Rugby World Cup 2025 place available for the taking and only the top three teams qualifying for WXV 1, this was a key game for the Wallaroos. However, Canada’s cohesion won them an early ascendancy as superior kicking pinned the home side in their own half. The visitors converted pressure into points in the fifth minute, a devastating rolling maul sending hooker Sara Cline over the stripe.

Five minutes later Canada scored in the same spot, another powerful maul allowing McKinley Hunt to peel off the pack and make it 12-0. Finally, a rattling tackle by Wallaroo Bridie O’Gorman coughed the ball loose and gave Australia a sniff. They didn’t waste it, Siokapesi Palu barging through two defenders to score in the corner.

Unfortunately, a knock-on was detected by the TMO and the five points vanished as quickly as they’d been conjured. However, the home side would not be denied a second time, Tania Naden nailing the lineout throw five-minutes out from the line before burrowing over herself to peg the score back to 12-7 after 19 minutes.

Canada’s Laetitia Royer out-jumps the Wallaroos in the Pacific Four match at Allianz Stadium,.View image in fullscreen

In the first meeting between the two sides in Australia, Canada’s relentless set piece was proving decisive, stealing huge metres on a tiring Wallaroos pack. Sure enough, Cline soon had her second try after another dominant maul put Canada out 19-7.

Despite the return of veteran Piper Duck from injury after missing the entire 2023 season, Australia’s indecision with ball in hand was proving costly. Yet they created a golden opportunity in the shadows of half-time, fullback Lori Cramer launching a kick into space only to watch Waratahs winger Desiree Miller bobble the catch.

Australia needed to score first in the second half. Instead, Canada struck as Gabrielle Senft’s strong carry set up Hunt’s second try. At 24-7, Yapp injected Eva Karpani and Atasi Lafai into the fray to replace Michaela Leonard and Bridie O’Gorman.

The change-up had an instant effect, as Australia counter-attacked and created a two player overlap. With a Wallaroos try imminent, Canada’s Maddy Grant knocked the ball down deliberately, copping a yellow card and costing her side a penalty try.

At 26-14, Australia were back in it. But three minutes later, the pendulum swung back to the visitors as Canada’s DaLeaka Menin punched a hole through the middle and kept charging to cross under the posts and extend the margin to 19-points.

skip past newsletter promotion

With Hera-Barb Malcolm Heke and Sally Fuesaina on for their Wallaroos debuts, Australia needed something special in the final quarter. And they delivered, repelling ferocious waves of Canadian attack in their own 22.

Starved of possession and blighted by handling errors on a greasy Sydney surface sodden by week’s rain, the Wallaroos could only fight a rearguard action symbolised by Faitala Moleka’s late try-saving tackle on Julia Schnell who looked certain to score.

“It was a good first match but obviously disappointed with the result,” Wallaroos captain Michaela Leonard said after the siren blew on a tough 33-14 loss.

“I think we showed the attacking threats we do have when we execute well and we saw that in Maya Stewart and Desiree Miller on the edges. For us, I think it’s just about fixing the execution, focusing on detail and bringing a bit more physicality next week.

“It’s been a whirlwind ten days with a lot of learnings, we saw some of it out there but we also saw a few areas that need fine tuning that we’ll fix up next week.”

The Wallaroos next head to Melbourne to take on the USA at AAMI Park on May 17 (4:55pm AEST) before a final match in Auckland against New Zealand on May 25.

Source: theguardian.com