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Canada weather French storm to win thrilling WXV1 clash

By Finn Morton
Krissy Scurfield of Canada (C) is congratulated on scoring a try during the WXV1 match between France and Canada at Go Media Stadium Mt Smart on November 04, 2023 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Dave Rowland/Getty Images)

With both teams losing their round two clashes in WXV1, Canada have bounced back by finishing their campaign with a famous 29-20 win over a desperate French outfit at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday.

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France dominated the territory battle during the opening 30 minutes or so, but Canada remained patient, passionate and hungry as they fought their way back into the contest.

Three second-half tries proved to be the difference as the Canadians ran away with a famous win over Les Bleues at the Auckland venue.

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With the horror, disappointment and frustration from the disastrous 36-nil defeat in last year’s Rugby World Cup bronze still lurking in the history books, the Canadian players lined up for their shot at revenge on a beautiful afternoon in the north of Aotearoa.

Inside centre Alex Tessier got the WXV1 blockbuster underway with what appeared to be a slightly mishit kick-off, but Canada had the first opportunity to play with the ball – but only for a moment.

Teenage prop Ambre Mwakyembe won a penalty at the breakdown inside the opening minute which gave 20-year-old Morgane Bourgeois the opportunity to kick the first points of the Test. Playing in just her second appearance for France, Bourgeois nailed the long-range penalty.

It was a sign of things to come. France dominated the territory battle during the opening half as they continued to build phases inside the Canadian half of the field. Halfback Pauline Bourdon Sansus and Bourgeois were among the players piling on attacking pressure off the boot.

Match Summary

2
Penalty Goals
1
2
Tries
4
2
Conversions
3
0
Drop Goals
0
129
Carries
159
6
Line Breaks
5
19
Turnovers Lost
13
6
Turnovers Won
4

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Canada weren’t helping their cause early on, either. Halfback Justine Pelletier dropped Canada’s first real chance with the ball on the back of a scrum near halfway, and Tessier failed to find touch with a penalty moments later.

Everything seemed to be going right for France. The ball wasn’t bouncing Canada’s way.

Les Bleues were practically parked inside Canada’s half as three early penalties gifted France some priceless attacking opportunities with the try line in sight, and eventually, it paid off.

Sporting red headgear, backrower Charlotte Escudero stood out with a pair of destructive carries deep inside Canada’s 22. In the following phase, as Escudero leapt up off the deck in the hope of getting the ball for a third time, halfback Sansus fought her way over the line for a decisive score.

Bourgeois added the extras from close range as France raced out to a 10-nil lead. At that stage, it looked like the tricolours were going to run away with it.

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But there wasn’t a single point scored in the next 20 minutes. Canada weathered the French storm as they fought their way back into the contest with a try to hooker Emily Tuttosi.

With their first try-scoring opportunity inside the French 22 after almost 35 minutes of play, the Canadians formed a rampaging maul off the back of a Sophie de Goede take at an attacking lineout.

They always looked like scoring. Try-scorer Tuttosi jumped up and celebrated with her teammates as the Canadians took control of the momentum in this Test.

Four minutes later, France centre Nassira Konde was sent to the sin bin for a high shot that was described as “indirect” contact to the head by the on-field referee.

In direct contrast to the opening exchanges of this clash, the ball was finally bouncing Canada’s way.

But with a minute to run on the clock, France held on as they took a slender three-point lead into the break.

With it all to play for in the second term, flanker Emeline Gros made an impressive break into the Canadian 22 as Les Bleues searched desperately for a score to extend their lead.

Points Flow Chart

Canada Women's win +9
Time in lead
42
Mins in lead
38
53%
% Of Game In Lead
48%
71%
Possession Last 10 min
29%
3
Points Last 10 min
3

But it was Canada who ended up opening the score in the second half. Wing Krissy Scurfield reaped the rewards of a brilliant Canadian counter-attack as the world’s fourth-ranked side took the lead for the first time.

Another try to blindside flanker Courtney Holtkamp saw the Canadians extend their advantage to beyond a converted try with 30 minutes to play, and they showed no signs of slowing down.

While Canada continued to apply pressure in attack, defence and around the breakdown, France showed their class with an impressive try of their own when they desperately needed to.

Wing Marine Menager scored a pivotal try as the French reduced the deficit to just two points after Bourgeois’ successful conversion.

Once again, it was anyone’s game. Close Test matches tend to be decided by a moment of brilliance, and that’s what it came down to.

Canadian centre Fancy Bermudez showed some skill, poise and rugby IQ to run away for the Maple Leaf’s fourth try of the afternoon. De Goede added the extras to extend their lead to nine points.

France may have stumbled a couple of times, but they were still well and truly in this fight. They risked landing a damaging blow inside the final 10 minutes as they ran deep into the Canadian 22, and they ended up walking away with three points.

Less than a converted try split the two teams once again, but that didn’t last long. De Goede, who had converted three of four attempts up to that stage, nailed the shot at goal.

Time was not on France’s side, and the Canucks knew it. The clock continued to tick by second by second as the full-time hooter began to warm up.

Canada kept their opponents camped down their own end as they held on for a famous WXV1 victory over France.

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