- Black Ferns secure second consecutive World Rugby Pacific Four Series title with 39-17 win over USA
- Hosts Canada overpower Australia 45-7 to cap off series in Ottawa
- New Zealand, Canada and Australia qualify for WXV 1 while USA to compete in WXV 2
- Sara Cox surpasses Clare Daniels as most-capped female referee of all-time
It was an unforgettable night in Ottawa on Saturday for 21-year-old Maiakawanakaulani Roos as she became the youngest ever Black Ferns captain and lifted the World Rugby Pacific Four Series 2023 trophy with her team-mates at TD Place Stadium.
After trailing the USA Women’s Eagles 17-5 at the break, New Zealand scored 34 unanswered second-half points to secure the 39-17 victory and taste Pacific Four Series success for the second straight year.
In the second match of the day, Canada’s Tyson Beukeboom, who was playing in her 60th test, scored a hat-trick to lead her side to a 45-7 victory over Australia to finish second in the annual four-team competition.
By finishing in the top three, New Zealand, Canada and Australia will compete in WXV 1 later this year in New Zealand, while USA will travel to South Africa to take part in WXV 2.
The new three-tier annual global women’s 15s competition is set to revolutionise the women’s international rugby landscape, providing for the first time a meaningful pathway for all unions and a competitive springboard towards an expanded 16-team Rugby World Cup in 2025.
NEW ZEALAND 39-17 USA
After receiving the Haka, it was a perfect start for the Women’s Eagles as they took a 7-0 lead over the Black Ferns within the first four minutes at TD Place Stadium. Georgie Perris-Redding got her side going forward with a scintillating midfield line-break, and, after a red card was issued to New Zealand scrum-half Iritana Hohaia in the second minute for a dangerous tackle, Freda Tafuna stepped hard off her left foot at the lineout to break free for the opening try. McKenzie Hawkins added the conversion.
The Americans would also see a card moments later when flanker Perris-Redding was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle, setting the platform for New Zealand’s first try from debutant Grace Gago off of a perfectly executed set-piece move from a lineout.
In the 20th minute, Jennine Detiveaux sliced through New Zealand’s backline in the hopes of scoring her side’s second try but the Black Ferns rallied to make two back-to-back try-saving tackles, the second on Summer Harris-Jones to keep the deficit to just two points. However, the Women's Eagles would not be denied moments later when Rachel Johnson smashed over for the third try of the match.
After issuing a warning minutes earlier, match official Julianne Zussman handed New Zealand their second card of the opening 40 minutes as number eight Liana Mikaele-Tu’u was sent to the sin-bin for repeat infringements, allowing Hawkins to slot a penalty to push their lead to 17-5 heading into the half-time sheds.
Last year’s World Rugby Women's 15s Player of the Year Ruahei Demant, a first-half replacement, showed her class in the opening minutes of the second half to swing the momentum in her side’s favour.
After USA were held up over New Zealand’s try-line, an errant kick found Demant’s hands and she sliced through the USA defence before sending a grubber down field to Renee Holmes. Detiveaux made the try-saving tackle, however the Black Ferns would not be denied on the ensuing play when Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu took an inside ball to score untouched.
After a Holmes penalty brought the score to 17-15 for USA, the Black Ferns took the lead for the first time in the 57th minute through their forwards with replacement prop Phillipa Love smashing over after sustained pressure. Holmes added the tricky sideline conversion to bring the score to 22-17.
With the momentum fully in their favour, the Rugby World Cup 2021 champions continued their offensive onslaught despite having one less player on the pitch. Mikaele-Tu’u added the bonus-point try for her side and put the match out of reach for the Women’s Eagles.
The Mastercard Player of the Match Demant and Amy du Plessis would add two more tries to put the icing on the cake for their side’s victory and clinch their second consecutive World Rugby Pacific Four Series title.
USA captain Kate Zackary on her team’s performance following the loss: “We know where we are in the future of WXV. I’m absolutely stoked for this team. They were buzzing going into this match and the first half they were absolutely electric and everyone in the stands felt it, everyone at home hopefully felt it. Things are clicking that we haven’t quite had and that’s a real testament to what’s come in the future.”
Black Ferns captain Roos said: “I don’t think the end score reflects the effort and game that the USA came out with. They came out hissing and it was a real tough game but we found a way. We obviously have a lot of new, young talent that we’re looking to grow and develop so this was a great game for that and we really lifted in the second half.”
CANADA 45-7 AUSTRALIA
After controlling nearly 75 per cent of the possession in the opening 15 minutes in Australia’s territory, Canada were rewarded for their efforts when captain Sophie de Goede picked from the base of the scrum and powered over under the posts for the game’s first points. She added two points from the tee to give her side an early 7-0 lead.
Canada gifted the Wallaroos possession off the ensuing restart with a knock on, and the visitors made them pay minutes later through a try by flanker Ashley Marsters to draw level at 7-7.
Much to the delight of the passionate home crowd, the Canadians would answer back through Sarah Maude-Lachance. De Goede controlled the ball at the back of the driving scrum in midfield and, with a penalty signaled by match official Sara Cox – who became the most-capped female referee of all-time with her 35th test, surpassing Clare Daniels – the ball went through the hands for the winger to score in the right corner.
Playing in her 60th test, which is second all-time for Canada behind five-time Rugby World Cup veteran Gillian Florence, Tyson Beukeboom touched down for her nation’s third try to reward an impressive set of phases by the hosts’ forward pack. Captain De Goede added one more try and conversion on the stroke of half-time to take a 26-7 lead into the break.
Hometown hero Claire Gallagher, from the University of Ottawa GeeGees, opened the scoring in the second half. The 23-year-old fly-half, playing in her second test, dotted down under the posts for the bonus-point try.
Last Saturday’s Mastercard Player of the Match Eva Karpani was sent to the sin-bin by Cox in the 49th minute, setting the platform for Beukeboom to dot down her second try off the ensuing driving maul to extend Canada's lead to 40-7 after another conversion from De Goede.
The penalty troubles continued for Australia as loose-head prop Bree-Anna Cheatham was also sent to the sin-bin to bring her team down to 13 players until Karpani returned to the field.
Mastercard Player of the Match Beukeboom completed her impressive hat-trick in the 67th minute in the left corner after taking a sublime offload from replacement forward Alexandria Ellis a metre from the try-line.
Beukeboom said: “It’s such an honour to be able to put this jersey on in the first place let alone 60 times and to be able to do it in front of this crowd and score three tries, which I’ve never done and probably won’t ever do again, is just so exciting. I had so much fun, I just wanted to hit things and I did and it worked out well for me.”