Canadian women open WXV rugby tournament in New Zealand with 42-22 win over Wales

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Captain Sophie de Goede scored 17 points as Canada defeated Wales 42-22 in its opening game at the new WXV women’s 15s rugby tournament Saturday.

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De Goede, named player of the match, was a force running with the ball and disrupting the Welsh attack.

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“Sophie was great,” said Canada coach Kevin Rouet. “She leads the team on and off the field.”

The WXV is a new three-tier annual competition with the fourth-ranked Canadians in the elite WXV 1. WXV 2 and 3 are already underway in South Africa and Dubai, respectively.

De Goede, Sara Svoboda, Maddie Grant, McKinley Hunt, Gillian Boag and Sarah-Maude Lachance scored tries for Canada, which led 21-17 at the half. De Goede added six conversions.

Carys Phillips, Georgia Evans and Alex Callender scored tries for No. 6 Wales, whose cause was not helped by penalties. Keira Bevan booted two conversions and a penalty.

Canada improved to 10-2-2 against Wales, whose last victory over the Canadians was a 16-11 decision in 2006 in Cardiff.

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The WXV top tier features the top three teams from the Women’s Six Nations (England, France, Wales) and the top three from the Pacific Four Series. The Canadians qualified by finishing runner-up to No. 2 New Zealand in the Pacific Four Series which wrapped up in July in Ottawa. No. 5 Australia was third.

The Canadians, whose set pieces were solid throughout the game, face top-ranked England in Dunedin on Oct. 27 and No. 3 France in Auckland on Nov. 3.

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“There’s a lot of belief in our team that we can be one of the best teams in the world and we really want to prove that to everyone in world rugby” said de Goede.

England beat Australia 42-7 in the opening game of the tournament.

It was a gusty 14 degrees Celsius at Sky Stadium for the 4 p.m. local time kickoff.

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Canada went ahead on a converted try in the fifth minute, moving down the pitch thanks to two Welsh penalties. De Goede eventually bulled her way over after a series of attacks following a lineout near the Welsh try-line.

Wales tied it up three minutes later after a penalty against the Canadians allowed it to kick to the corner. Phillips, the hooker, went over on a set play from the lineout that caught the Canadians napping.

Welsh fullback Jasmine Joyce made a try-saving tackle in the 22nd minute, stopping Canadian winger Florence Symonds in full flight down the left sideline. A Bevan penalty made it 10-7 for Wales in the 28th minute.

Going over from close range, Svoboda capped a Canadian attack with a converted try in the 31st minute as Canada moved back ahead at 14-10. The Canadians made it 21-10 in the 38th with Grant touching down after a set play that saw Symonds, an attacking threat all game, carve through the Welsh defence.

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Wales replied a minute late on an intercept try by Evans, cutting the deficit to 21-17.

Hunt crashed over under the posts in the 49th minute to increase Canada’s lead. Another Welsh penalty set the stage for Boag to score from close range in the 68th minute and make it 35-17.

A Callender try in the 74th reduced the lead to 35-22. But another Welsh penalty led to a set piece near the Welsh try-line and de Goede set up Lachance for a final try in the corner in the 78th minute.

The Canadian women were coming off 50-24 and 29-12 losses last month to England. But they had won their previous six meetings with Wales by an average margin of 25 points.

The game marked a milestone for English referee Sara Cox who becomes the most-capped female referee in test history in her own right. She had shared the record with South Africa’s Aimee Barrett-Theron.

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Rouet made three changes in the forwards and five in the backs from the starting 15 for his team’s last outing, the 29-12 loss to England on Sept. 30. Two of the changes involved players who are not available for the New Zealand trip.

Welsh coach Ioan Cunningham fielded the same starting lineup that defeated the seventh-ranked U.S. 38-18 on Sept. 30 in Colwyn Bay.

Canada finished fourth at last year’s World Cup, beaten 26-19 by England in the semifinal and 36-0 by France in the third-place match. Wales exited in the quarterfinals, falling 55-3 to eventual champion New Zealand.

Canadian lock Ashlynn Smith came in off the bench to earn her first cap.

Check out our sports section for the latest news and analysis.

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