Canada upset Black Ferns in a Pacific Four thriller

28 days ago
Black Ferns

Canada are the Pacific Four champions following a 22-19 upset of the Black Ferns in Christchurch.

Canada's victory is their first in 18 internationals against New Zealand stretching back to 1991. In 17 previous Tests, Canada had been outscored 699 to 154. In Ottawa last year Canada was soundly beaten 52-21. 

Initially, the Black Ferns appeared on course for a routine victory. Winger Katelyn Vaha’akolo scored two tries in the 10th and 23rd minutes as the hosts jumped to a 14-3 lead. Both tries were created by exploiting space on the left. Mererangi Paul provided the pass on the first try, Maia Joseph the bust and delivery for the second.

How did Canada rally? Their success was built on resolute defense. Canada made 227 tackles compared with the Black Ferns 89 and late in proceedings thwarted a 36-phase attack from the Black Ferns.

The Black Ferns discipline was poor throughout the game, conceding 14 penalties and yellow cards to Sylvia Brunt in the first half and Aldora Itunu in the 77th minute.

Canada mauled powerfully from lineouts and prop McKinley Hunt scored a try from that weapon. Canada was held up over the line on another occasion.

What little ball Canada enjoyed they utilised effectively. Both wingers Fancy Bermudez and Paige Farries were eager for work and proved elusive. Second five Alexandra Tessier in her 51st Test was highly effective. Canada’s loose forwards Gabrielle Senft, Sophie de Goede, and Pamphinette Buisa were outstanding in unison. Tighthead prop DaLeaka Menin was officially named player of the match and spoke emotionally after the game.

“So excited. It feels like we’ve worked forever for this result. We were determined to put our best out there. To have this outcome is amazing.”

Canada scored their first try in the 28th minute. Sara Cline charged towards the line and was halted narrowly short. A quick recycle saw right winger Fancy Bermudez dart over.

The Black Ferns start to the second half was clumsy and Canada took a deserved lead when Hunt barreled over.

Canada now looked threatening every time they entered New Zealand territory and in the 60th minute, Bermudez had her second with a blistering turn and showcase of speed after a maul.

In the 64th minute, Canada was cruelly denied a try when leading 22-14. Farries busted into the 22 and offloaded to Alexandra Tessier. Despite de Goode landing the conversion the try was disallowed upon review because Shoshanah Seumanutafa was ruled to have obstructed Amy du Plessis.

The Black Ferns were able to make headway in the last ten minutes with persistent pick-and-goes. Kaipo Olsen-Baker was busy and explosive from the bench. When Patrica Maliepo scored in the 73rd minute the Black Ferns were only down 22-19.

Canada refused to yield.  Liana Mikaele-Tu’u and Kennedy Simon performed strongly. Vaha’akolo has scored eight tries in seven Tests. Demant was consistently threatening. 

Canada replaces the Black Ferns as second in the world for the first time since 2016. Canada beat the USA 50-7 and Australia 33-14 in their other Pacific Four fixtures.

The Black Ferns have lost five Tests at home and have lost their last two matches in white jerseys.

The Black Ferns final fixture of the Pacific Four series is next Saturday against Australia at North Harbour Stadium.

Black Ferns: 19 (Katelyn Vaha’akolo 2, Patrica Maliepo tries; Ruahei Demant 2 con) Canada: 22 (Fancy Bermudez 2, McKinley Hunt tries; Sophie de Goede 2 con, pen) HT: 14-10

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