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Canadian women have little trouble dispatching the U.S. in Pacific Four Series opener

Canada's Tyson Beukeboom (centre) in action during the 2022 Pacific Four Women's Rugby Series rugby match between NZ Black Ferns and Canada at Trusts Stadium in Auckland, New Zealand on Sunday, June 12, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Rugby Canada-Dave Lintott **MANDATORY CREDIT**

MADRID — Fullback Sabrina Poulin scored two of Canada's eight tries in a 50-17 rugby romp over the U.S. in the opening match of the Pacific Four Series on Saturday.

Emily Tuttosi, Fancy Bermudez, Sarah-Maude Lachance, Tyson Beukeboom, Emma Taylor and Gillian Boag also scored tries for fourth-ranked Canada, which led 26-3 at the break on a sunny, breezy afternoon at Estadio Nacional de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Captain Sophie de Goede added five conversions.

De Goede was a force to be reckoned with from her No. 8 position, opening up the U.S. defence with powerful runs that opened up space for the supporting backs.

Beukeboom, a veteran lock, earned cap No. 58 for Canada, second only to the retired Gillian Florence's 66 caps.

Hope Rogers and Lotte Clapp scored tries for the seventh-ranked Americans, who had no answer for Canada's free-flowing offence despite a brief surge early in the second half. Gabby Cantorna kicked a penalty and a conversion while McKenzie Hawkins added a conversion.

"We took our foot off the gas a bit and let them back in the game in the second half but then again we responded," said de Goede. "I think for a team that's only been together two weeks, I'm pretty proud of that. Hopefully we can keep building off it and keep the consistency over 80 minutes."

The four-team Pacific Four Series will resume in June when No. 6 Australia hosts No. 2 New Zealand before all four teams converge on Canada in July for the final matches of the tournament. The top three teams will qualify for the inaugural WXV, a new three-tier annual global women's international 15s competition, while the bottom team will move on to the WXV second tier.

The WXV is scheduled for October-November.

Canada finished runner-up to New Zealand at last year's Pacific Four Series. The U.S. was third and Australia fourth.

Both Canada and the U.S. won warmup matches in Madrid last weekend with Canada thumping No. 13 South Africa 66-7 and the U.S. downing No. 11 Spain 20-14.

Canada improved to 26-19 all-time against the U.S. with its eighth straight win over its rival dating back to July 2019. That includes two victories at last year's World Cup — 29-14 in pool play and 32-11 in the quarterfinal.

The Canadians went on to finish fourth in New Zealand, losing to France in the third-place game after pushing England to the limit in the semifinal.

Tuttosi, like de Goede named to World Rugby's Women's 15s Dream Team last year, opened the scoring Saturday in the eighth minute at the back of a driving maul. De Goede, who had made a fine line break earlier in the match, made it 7-0 with the conversion. 

Poulin, who also scored two tries against South Africa, sliced through the U.S. defence to cap a well-crafted attack from a scrum in the 23rd minute.

Poulin added Canada's third try late in the half touching down in the corner for a 19-0 lead as the U.S. defence was caught short again.

Cantorna, who was wide on a 30th-minute penalty attempt, put the U.S. on the board with a penalty late in the half only to see Bermudez add to Canada's lead on the stroke of halftime, fending off two defenders for another try. 

Bermudez, a fleet-footed member of the Canadian sevens squad, was coming off a two-try performance in her 15s debut against Spain.

The Americans laid siege on the Canadian try-line early in the second half, aided by a pair of penalties. But the attack ended in a handling error.

Canada kept the scoreboard ticking with tries by Lachance (49th minute) before Rogers crashed over from in-close in the 54th minute after a prolonged U.S. attack. Canada was dinged for several penalties in the buildup to the U.S. try and flanker Sara Svoboda was sent to the sin-bin after the score.

Beukeboom bulled her way over in the 59th minute before Clapp replied for the Americans in the 66th, touching down a grubber kick under the posts for a converted try that reduced the Canada lead to 40-17.

Canada flanker Fabiola Forteza was sent to the sin-bin in the 71st minute for a deliberate knock-on. The Canadians kept going, with a Taylor try upping the lead to 45-17.

American wing Autumn Czaplicki was sin-binned in the 75th minute for a deliberate knock on with Boag adding one more try off the bench in her 20th appearance for Canada.

Interim U.S. head coach Rich Ashfield changed his lineup for the Canada game with only six players remaining from the Spain starting 15.

In contrast, Canada coach Kevin Rouet went with the same forward pack and made just two changes to his backs, including one positional shift.

Alex Tessier moved from centre to fly half with Julia Schell dropping to the bench. Sara Kaljuvee slotted in at centre. Alexandra Ellis and Pamphinette Buisa joined the replacements.

Kaljuvee and Buisa missed the South Africa game with minor injuries.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 1, 2023

The Canadian Press

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