LANGFORD, B.C. - The U.S. Women’s National Rugby Team lost its last game of the Can-Am series on Friday, marking a 0-2 record against its Canadian opponents after the 34-22 defeat at Bear Mountain Stadium in Langford, BC.
The Canadians looked strong out the gate, scoring a try by fullback Julianne Zussman after just two minutes, but a yellow card in a pivotal position halted Canada’s momentum and brought the USA to life.
Contests between the North American rivals have been notoriously close; the last four matches have been decided by seven points or less, including Monday’s test when Olympian Heather Moyse scored a last-minute to give Canada a 14-8 victory.
Canada’s first three tries were all scored by the backs as the end result of simple offloads after touching several sets of hands. Zussman’s initial try clearly stung the USA who could only muster 12 points in the opening frame.
The Americans rallied after half and the 27th test between these two nations became another arm wrestle.
Canadian scrumhalf Laura Stoughton was given a yellow card for not rolling away at the breakdown, leaving Canada unsure of whom to slot into the central role. Match captain Maria Gallo stepped into the position, more for her leadership abilities than her pass, and the Canadians were able to hold the States scoreless while a player down.
However, Canada exhaled early and USA wing Vanesha McGee crossed the line just as Stoughton returned to the pitch, leveling the score at 22.
The U.S. worked its way down to the Canadian five meter line numerous times, but Canada’s defense held and shifted the match’s momentum yet again. Shortly thereafter, Stoughton found redemption for her absence in the form of a try, scoring in similar fashion to the first three. Replacement flanker Heather Jaques capped off an exceptionally sharp game with Canada’s last try.
While the U.S. would make several more convincing attempts, Canada would hold on to secure their home Can-Am sweep.
“Did we fix some things (from Monday’s game),” U.S. Women’s National Team Coach Kathy Flores asked rhetorically. “Yes, we did. Do we have a lot of things to work on? Yes, we do. The Canadians played very, very well.
“Normally when we get behind we can’t come back, but there was a point where we were able to tie the score after being down, which was actually good for us,” Flores added. “Where I think we lack a little discipline is where the Canadians are very good. When they get scored on they come right back at something and they’re ready for it and I think we tend to sit back a little bit because we just scored. That key moment is when we lose a little bit of our momentum and that’s when the Canada side was able to get right back into it and come back at us.”
This two-game series for the U.S. marks the last matches for the U.S. before travelling to London for the Women’s Rugby World Cup, which kicks off for the U.S. Women on August 20 against Kazakhstan.
Although the Can-Am series wasn’t necessarily the confidence builder the U.S. had hoped for, it did allow the National Team Coach a closer look at the players she will bring with her to England later this summer.
“There are 30 players in the pool right now,” Flores explained, “and we’ll narrow it down to 26 (for the RWC). I have a good idea of 20, at least, and the remaining six spots will depend on how the person played during this weekend, what we know they can do, all those types of things.”
Canada 34 (22)
Tries: Julianne Zussman, Brittany Waters, Mandy Marchak, Laura Stoughton, Heather Jaques
Conversions: Schnell (2), Marchak
USA 22 (10)
Tries: Christine Ringgenberg, Emily Bydwell, Vanesha McGee
Conversions: Ringgenberg (2)
U.S. Women’s Lineup:
1. Jamie Burke (Beantown)
2. Lisa Butts (Berkeley All-Blues)
3. Lara Vivolo (New York Rugby Club)
4. Jillion Potter (Minnesota Valkyries)
5. Sharon Blaney (Beantown)
6. Melanie Denham (Beantown)
7. Kristin Zdanczewicz (Minnesota Valkyries)
8. Blair Groefsema (Berkeley All-Blues)
9. Kim Magrini (Keystone)
10. Christy Ringgenberg (Minnesota Valkyries)
11. Nathalie Marchino (Berkeley All-Blues)
12. Emilie Bydwell (Beantown)
13. Lynelle Kugler (Twin Cities Amazons)
14. Vanesha Mcgee (New York Rugby Club)
15. Ashley English (Berkeley All-Blues) *Captain
16. Farrah Douglas (Keyston)
17. Maurin Wallace (Beantown)
18. Stacey Bridges (Texas A&M)
19. Phaidra Knight (New York Rugby Club)
20. Melissa Kanuk (Minnesota Valkyries)
21. Amy Daniels (Beantown)
22. Ashley Kmiecik (ORSU)