Plucky Wallaroos outshone by home team Canada

Sat, Jul 15, 2023, 12:33 AM
Jim Tucker
by Jim Tucker
The Wallaroos travelled to Tauranga for the first match of the Pacific Four series against the Black Ferns.

The Wallaroos were forced to absorb a tough 45-7 loss in Ottawa this morning (AEST) against a Canadian side making a statement for their home crowd.

The Australians were always brave and willing to sacrifice their bodies in defence but that was not enough in the final match of the Pacific Four series.

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The Wallaroos had entered the game with hopes of toppling the No.4 team in the world but reality hit with every dominant, marching Canadian scrum.

When the scores were locked at 7-all after 28 minutes, that Aussie starch suggested they could really stretch the fancied Canadians.

The Canadian scrum caused the Wallaroos major headaches throughout with four of seven tries initiated off dominant scrums.

When No.8 Sophie de Goede charged over off the back of a strong scrum shunt at the 15-minute mark it was a sign of more damage to come.

The Wallaroos bounced backed from that 0-7 start with a fine try when flanker Ashley Marsters finished a strong build-up.

Fullback Lori Cramer had nudged through a nice grubber kick which chasing backrower Grace Hamilton turned into a penalty when she got hungry hands in on a fallen Canadian ball-carrier.

From the ensuing attacking lineout, lock Kaitlan Leaney made a powerful charge to get the Wallaroos on full attack. The momentum was continued with advances by Bree-Anna Cheatham and Siokapesi Palu before Marsters surged over.

The 7-all score after 22 minutes reflected plenty of brave Wallaroos defence.

Fullback Cramer put her body on the line more than once to stall bigger runners, flanker Emily Chancellor stripped one ball and Cheatham made several front-on tackles.

A mountainous penalty count heaped pressure on the Australians again and again with English referee Sara Cox, at one point, telling Wallaroos skipper Michaela Leonard “this has to change.”

Within 60 seconds of that warning, prop Eva Kapani had unbalanced a Canadian lineout jumper in the air and was flashed a yellow card at the 49-minute mark. 

The Australians were forced to play short on numbers for 20 minutes of the second half with another yellow card issued to prop Cheatham for a shoulder-on-head contact in a tackle where she absorbed a charging runner.  

It was credit to the fight of the Australians that they only conceded 12 points in that yellow card period because for several minutes they were down to 13 players.

Flanker Marsters, with a trademark offload or two, centre Palu and replacement Tabua Tuinakauvadra had some strong moments in a patchy team performance.

Leonard was disappointed but also saw the bigger picture.

Finishing third in the Pac Four tournament has earned a spot in the six-nation WXV 1 tournament in New Zealand later this year when the Blacks Ferns and England will be amongst their opponents.

“Over the last two years the increased opportunity to play and play at this standard has been incredible for the growth of our team,” Leonard told post-game interviewers.

“It’s a new team and a new squad and we’re continuing to build.

“We have the WXVs at the end of the year and we are raring to get into that.

“We’re really excited to be locked into that for the next two years, particularly leading into the 2025 World Cup. It means we’re playing against the best teams in the world and we are doing it multiple times per year. That’s the way you get better.”

Of the Canada game, she said: “You can’t fault the effort of the girls. It was the discipline in the end.”

That’s only true to a certain extent. The Wallaroos also made it hard for themselves with costly errors.

The match was played on artificial turf at a stadium more often used for Canadian football. 

It meant the bounce of the ball was different to natural turf as flyhalf Arabella McKenzie found when fielding a long Canadian kick just after half-time.

The ball continued to take little bounces and McKenzie knocked on when she belatedly tried to gather it. When halfback Layne Morgan had to dot down behind her own tryline to save a situation shortly after, it handed the Canadians another 5m scrum, another scrum penalty and a quick tap try.

McKenzie and Cramer both slotted into first receiver at different times. Chances and the creation of any deception in the backs were limited against a sturdy Canadian defence.

Canadian lock Tyson Beukeboom scored the first hat-trick of her long career in her 60th Test to show that good things do come to those who wait. 


CANADA 45 (T Beukeboom 3, S De Goede 2, S Lachance, C Gallagher tries; S de Goede 5 con) bt AUSTRALIA 7 (A Marsters try; L Cramer con)


WALLAROOS (1-15): Bree-Anna Cheatham, Adiana Talakai, Eva Karpani, Michaela Leonard (c), Kaitlan Leaney, Ashley Marsters, Emily Chancellor, Grace Hamilton, Layne Morgan, Arabella McKenzie, Ivania Wong, Siokapesi Palu, Georgina Friedrichs, Maya Stewart, Lori Cramer

Replacements: Tania Naden, Emily Robinson, Bridie O'Gorman, Sera Naiqama, Tabua Tuinakauvadra, Jasmin Huriwai, Trileen Pomare, Alana Elisaia

CANADA (1-15): McKinley Hunt, Emily Tuttosi, Daleaka Menin, Tyson Beukeboom, Courtney Holtkamp, Sara Svoboda, Fabiola Forteza, Sophie de Goede, Justine Pelletier, Claire Gallagher, Paige Farries, Sara Kaljuvee, Alysha Corrigan,  Sarah-Maude Lachance, Madison Grant

Replacements: Sara Cline, Mya Brubacher, Alexandra Ellis, Laetitia Royer, Gabrielle Senft, Olivia Apps, Shoshanah Seumanutafa, Fancy Bermudez

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