Black Ferns secure WXV1 qualification with Ottawa victory
The Black Ferns have confirmed their place at the Global WXV1 tournament in October on New Zealand shores and all but wrapped up the Pacific Four Series title with a dominant 52-21 defeat of host Canada in Ottawa.
This was the 14th straight win for the Black Ferns, the platform laid by a sparkling opening quarter, by the end of which they led 21-0.
It was hot in the late afternoon Ottawa sun, but the Black Ferns stuck to their task and the game plan in the face of a stern Canadian forwards challenge, in which captain and No 8 Sophie de Goede and Fabiola Forteza were prominent and industrious. De Goede again showed why she is rated the best No 8 in the world in some circles.
As they did against Australia, when the Black Ferns got their continuity game going, they were hard to stop. To the fore were the midfielders Sylvia Brunt and Amy du Plessis, who both frequently breached the line, the latter taking the official player of the match award with a brace.
Hooker Luka Connor, part of an entirely changed front-row from the last Test, scored within 90 seconds in close, though lock Chelsea Bremner came agonisingly close in the first drive to the line.
When co-captain Ruahei Demant waltzed over between the uprights, it was 14-0 after 14 minutes and the signs were ominous for the home team. When wing Mererangi Paul scored the first of her double after a sweet chip by Brunt which fell for du Plessis in support, the alarm bells might have been ringing.
In truth, there were some dusty connections from both sides, and the Black Ferns will not be content with 13 handling errors, partly attributable to Canada’s rush defence.
De Goede inspired Canada’s comeback, a quick tap and drive over the line, despite a heavy shot by Kennedy Simon, opening its account. When Forteza broke out of a maul to bolt 25, for her try, the Black Ferns were only up by seven at halftime.
Prop Olivia DeMerchant’s try brought the scire to 28-21 after 52 minutes and it looked like ‘game on.’
But the Black Ferns cranked it up a gear, notching four more tries to pull clear, though the final margin of 31 was slightly flattering against the world’s No 4-ranked team.
They did, however, use a judicious range of chips and grubbers to combat the rush defence and that bore fruit on several occasion, including when fullback Renée Holmes, who notched 17 points, scored from a du Plessis grubber.
The final nail in the coffin came from a try out wide to replacement Kelsey Teneti, Holmes, not for the first time, delivering the last pass.
As was the case in last week’s O’Reilly Cup clash, the Black Ferns got real impact from the bench, flanker Lucy Jenkins on debut, while halfback Iritana Hohaia and wing Teneti had their moments.
Other standouts in the starting XV included lock Maia Roos, prop Pip Love and first five Demant.
The Black Ferns, now the sole unbeaten team in the Pac Four, will next Saturday (NZT) face USA, which was beaten 58-17 by the Australian Wallaroos earlier today, in the Canadian capital.
Black Ferns 52 (Mererangi Paul 2, Amy du Plessis 2, Luka Connor, Ruahei Demant, Renée Holmes, Kelsey Teneti tries; Holmes 6 con) Canada 21 (Sophie de Goede, Fabiola Forteza, Olivia DeMerchant tries; de Goede 3 con) HT: 21-14 Black Ferns