It was not a great weekend for the Australian national rugby teams, Junior Wallabies excepted. While the Wallabies were in the game for most of the match and in fact were leading with a few minutes to go, the Wallaroos, despite their efforts, never really got into the game.
In the end the Canadians ran away with the game 45-7, it was pretty much over by half time with the Canadians having scored four tries, up 26-7. While the score was significant, and the Canadians had the upper hand throughout, the score did not reflect the Wallaroos endevours. Also when you look at the game stats there was not a significant difference in the numbers.
The Wallaroos did lose but on a positive, they did finish third in the Pacific Four Series to qualify for World Rugby’s WXV Tier 1 tournament. (This could be described as the tournament of death that includes England, France, Wales, New Zealand and Canada.)
Pre game the hope was that the Wallaroos could match the Canadian physicality and early on they hung in there and held their own. The Canadians did not score until the 15 minute mark. But they were consistently able to roll over the advantage line and punched holes in the defence which had the Wallaroos scrambling. The Canadians are not just a forward based team they have a quality back line that put on some creative plays. They showed more in attack than the Australians but that also reflects the platform provided by their forwards. Compared to the Australians, the Canadians also had a longer kicking game to get them out of trouble.
There are some real Canadian star players especially captain and number eight Sophie de Goede and their winger Paige Farries always looked dangerous.
Maybe three back-to-back, very physical games wore the Australians down. Consecutive games against the Kiwis, USA and then Canada has really tested the Wallaroos. It is not going to get any easier, in a couple of months against New Zealand (again), then England, France and Wales.
In some ways like the Wallabies, the Wallaroos just could not sustain any pressure when they had the ball. At times they looked very positive but then a knock on, a tackled player isolated resulting in a turnover and the pressure was again relieved.
The scrum was generally solid but the Canadian scrum was more solid and provided real attacking opportunities that led to a number of their tries. Not one for early signs as an indicator but the game didn’t start too well. The Wallaroos got a lineout on the Canadian 22 in the first couple of minutes, but the throw was not straight, opportunity missed, pressure relieved for the Canadians.
The Australians were just unable to get a roll on, to spend enough time in the opposition’s 22 to show what they had. In comparison the Canadians spent twice as much time in the Australian’s 22.
Just like the Wallabies, discipline was an issue. The Wallaroos conceded 16 penalties to Canada’s 5. In the second half, to toss in for good measure Eva Karpani was yellow carded after multiple team infringements, then soon after Bree-Anna Cheatham was yellow carded for a high contact tackle. The Wallaroos were down to 13 players for a period.
You could not say any player had a poor game, as a team they just were not good enough. In the absence of captain Piper Duck, Michaela Leonard as captain led the team very well. All the tight five forwards fronted up, just that the Canadian five fronted up more. Their lock Tyson Beukeboom celebrated her 60th Test with a hat trick of tries too. In the backrow Ash Marsters worked non-stop throughout the game.
As for the backs there were not a lot of opportunities but would say both Maya Stewart and Lori Cramer had good games, especially in defence. While Arabella McKenzie does not have the length on her boot that the Canadians had, she had a pretty good game. She again was physical in attack and defence. She does not shirk taking the line head on or making solid tackles. Unfortunately, with predominantly backfoot ball, she was unable to provide her centres Siokapesi Palu and Georgina Friedrichs with opportunities in attack.
There was no doubt the playing Canada and the USA has been a great experience for the team that they can build on. Also it was a terrific experience that rugby provides, travelling to Canada.
Now it is time for a break for the Wallaroos. Before the World Rugby WXV Tier 1 tournament in October the Wallaroos are playing New Zealand ‘again’. Realistically out of England, France and Wales, Australia maybe able to get a win over Wales. In saying that Wales will want revenge following their 13-7 loss to the Wallaroos at last year’s World Cup.
It would be amiss not to mention the earlier game between the USA and the Black Ferns. New Zealand had made a few changes to their lineup including having a new captain. Probably as a consequence it took awhile for the Kiwis to turn things around after the USA led at half time 17-7. Bringing on some of their big guns in the second half the Kiwis turned it on, scoring five tries to take out the match 39-17. It will be interesting to see them up against the powerhouses of Europe, in particular England and France, later in the year.