North America ruled on day one of the Women’s Nations Cup with hosts USA and neighbours Canada running out winners against South Africa and England respectively at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley on Tuesday.
USA top the standings after round one following a 35-22 victory over the Springbok women, while Canada needed a late try from Magali Harvey to deny England in the opening match of the tournament which takes place just a year out from Women's Rugby World Cup 2014.
England had opening the scoring in an entertaining first half which saw the lead change hands a number of times with a Megan Goddard penalty, but it was Canada who went in leading 19-13 after tries from debutant Elissa Alaire (2) and Cheryl Phillips.
Zoey Saynor dived on a lose ball to score England’s second try within a minute of the restart but Harvey – a member of the Canadian team who had reached the final of RWC Sevens 2013 in Moscow at the end of June – hit back in the 48th minute.
Much of the final quarter was spent in Canada’s half with them unable to clear the ball against a young but determined England side, who finally got their reward when Ceri Large touched down and added the conversion to put her side ahead 25-24 with three minutes to go.
Canada though were not finished and scored through Harvey to ensure Francois Ratier’s first match as national coach was a winning one, although he knows there is plenty to work on before their next match with USA on Saturday.
South African challenge
“We put ourselves under pressure in those 20 minutes with our mistakes,” admitted Ratier. “We played well at times, but also know that we must work on our defence and our lineout before our next match. Overall I am pleased with the start the team has made at this tournament, and I know the players are looking forward to the challenges that are to come.”
England’s acting head coach Graham Smith added: “We came up against a very strong Canadian team that played as well as we have ever seen them play during my time with England – they had a powerful game with impressive offload support play throughout the game.”
The second match was equally entertaining with USA and South Africa serving up nine tries. Five of them came in the first half with Hope Rogers, Emilie Bydwell and Ashley Kmiecik dotting down to give the hosts a 20-10 lead at the break.
Captain Mandisa Williams cut that deficit but Sylvia Braaten crossed for the Eagles’ bonus point try. The hosts then capitalised on their player advantage courtesy of Nonathamsanqa Faleni’s yellow card to score a fifth try through Shaina Turley.
South Africa did score the last try of the match after Zenay Jordaan ran in from 70 metres to leave caretaker coach Aslam Abrahams labelling himself “proud” of his team but acknowledging they “need to go back to the drawing board and sort out our scrums, lineouts and penalties.”
His USA counterpart Peter Steinberg added: “In moments, I think we played better in the second half. It’s just a matter of consistency. We have to learn to play a little smarter. When we were able to retain the ball, we played really well.
“South Africa is always going to score tries and they will throughout this tournament, and they were quick enough and athletic enough to challenge us today.”
Women's Nations Cup fixtures and results
Tuesday, 30 July
Canada 29-25 England
USA 35-22 South Africa (18:00 local time, 00:00 GMT)
Saturday, 3 August
England v South Africa (16:00 local time, 22:00 GMT)
USA v Canada (18:00 local time, 00:00 GMT)
Wednesday, 7 August
Canada v South Africa (16:00 local time, 22:00 GMT)
USA v England (18:00 local time, 00:00 GMT)
Saturday, 10 August
Third place play-off (16:00 local time, 22:00 GMT)
Final (18:15 local time, 00:15 GMT)
Matches will be streamed live at usarugby.org/tv
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