This country’s National Senior Women’s Rugby Team have extended an incredible run for Canada’s women’s program in 2013, by claiming their first ever IRB Nations Cup title.
Amidst lightning and thunder at Denver’s Infinity Park, Canada stepped on to the pitch in pursuit of only their second victory over England in 20 years, and their second at this Nations Cup tournament.
They would not disappoint.
Those who have followed the progress of this women’s competition knew full-well what to expect coming in to Saturday evening’s clash. It would be England’s field position and power game against Canada’s dynamic wide-attacking style.
What a contest it would be.
In what was unquestionably the match of the tournament, it was Canada that drew first blood.
A beautifully constructed skip-pass found Jessica Dovanne who glided through three England defenders and raced away down-field. Using the speed and skill she displayed as part of Canada’s elite Sevens program, Dovanne outwitted multiple English pursuers with dummy passes and jukes, as she raced 60 meters to open the scoring for a jubilant Canadian team.
Magali Harvey would add the extra points, to take Canada out to an early 7 – 0 lead. Her kicking would collect crucial points throughout the match.
England would answer with three points of their own off the boot of fly-half Ceri Large, before Canada’s speedsters would once again make their presence felt.
England had seemed to halt Canada’s momentum, when a huge kick down-field sent winger Bianca Farella flying in pursuit. Taking a difficult bouncing ball at full-speed, Farella dodged the remaining English defenders and raced under the posts. The conversion would see Canada lead 14 – 3.
England’s power game was always going to be a danger to be weary of, and soon the response would come.
A long kick into the Canada corner by Ceri Large would see England gain possession at the 5-meter mark and drive for the line. Their corner score temporarily reduced the Canada lead to 14 – 8.
One of the most inspirational moments of the first-half came not from Canada’s fiery backline, but from flanker Megan Gibbs.
Having been down injured deep in the Canadian half for minutes on end, Gibbs shrugged off the attending medics and rose from the ground to defend an England fast-break. Timing her defensive move perfectly, Gibbs stepped between two onrushing English players for the intercept and sprinted back up-field; preventing a sure England try.
Canada had won the first 40 minutes, and carried their 14 – 8 advantage into half-time.
When the teams emerged for the second-half, Canada turned the tables on England and began to build possession of their own deep in the English half. The pressure resulted in an important pair of penalty kicks by Magali Harvey to extend Canada’s lead to 20 – 8, with only 25 minutes to play.
Once again, England looked to apply their power game and once again fly-half Ceri Large drove a penalty kick deep into the Canadian corner. The resulting England drive resulted in a Georgina Roberts try to bring England within seven points.
With Canada's Sevens athletes having played such an enormous role in the success of the National Senior Women's Team at the Nations Cup, it is fitting that one of their number would once again emerge to strike the deciding blow.
Off another attempted England corner kick, Canada collected possession and drove towards half-way. The ball found Bianca Farella on the near wing and - as the Canadian bench went absolutely crazy - she rounded her English opposite number and out-ran the remaining cover to score under the posts.
Canada led 27 - 13 and that is the way the match would end.
Canada are champions of the 2013 IRB Women's Nations Cup, doing so with a famous win over England.
Head Coach Francois Ratier had these words:
"Every win over a team like England is an enormous accomplishment, and this is a victory that should live long in the memory for Canada fans.
Full credit goes to our players and Captain Kelly Russell. They executed our game plan perfectly. We knew the type of game we needed to play to defeat England and I could not have asked for a better performance.
I would also like to thank my staff, the other coaches in the women's program at the Centre of Excellence, and all those at Rugby Canada who have supported us.
Finally, I would like to hold this win up as an example of what this country can do when we all work as one. Thank you to the tireless efforts that go on at the club, university and provincial levels that have culminated in making these amazing players available to Canada.
This is a win that the whole country can take pride in."
The victory caps an incredible run of success for Canada's women's program, rivalling their two-year undefeated run in the Sevens game, which ended in 2011.
This year, Canada's Sevens team finished third on the IRB Women's Sevens Series, and went on to win a silver medal at the 2013 Sevens World Cup in Moscow.
The Canadian U20 women rolled through the Junior Nations Cup last month with an undefeated record; besting South Africa, England and the United States in the process.
The 2013 Senior Nations Cup Championship is still further evidence of this country's incredible depth of women's rugby talent. As the 2014 Women's Fifteens World Cup approaches, this championship win herald's Canada's rightful place among the elite of the fifteens game.
Yes, it’s time to rejoice #RedNation. Your women are on top of the world!
Final Score: Canada (27) – England (13)
Canada Tries: Dovanne, Farella (2)
Canada Conversions: Harvey (3)
Canada Penalties: Harvey (2)
Jeff Hull is a contributor for Rugby Canada and Press Officer to Canada’s Nations Senior Women’s Team at the Nations Cup. Follow him on Twitter: @RugbyScribe
To keep up to date with Canada’s Women’s Fifteens Team while on tour in the USA, please follow @RugbyCanada on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RugbyCanada and Facebook: www.facebook.com/RugbyCanada
Fans looking to show support Canada’s women are encouraged to take to Twitter using Canada’s new hashtag #RedNation, as well as the tournament’s hastag #NationsCup.
Nations Cup Schedule:
Match #1: Canada 29 - England 25
Match #2: Canada 17 - USA 29
Match #3: Canada 52 - South Africa 15
Grand Final: Canada 27 - England 13
Canada’s Roster vs. England – Name, (Club Team) Hometown
1. Laura Russell, (Toronto Nomads) Bolton, ON
2. Kim Donaldson, (Burnaby Lake Rugby Club) Toronto, ON
3. Hilary Leith, (Saracens/Capilano RFC) British Columbia
4. Latoya Blackwood, (St. Anne de Bellevue) Montreal, QC
5. Maria (Jaworski) Samson, (Calgary Hornets) Calgary, AB
6. Megan Gibbs, (Markham Irish RFC) Barrie, ON
7. Kelly Russell, (Capt) (Toronto Nomads) Bolton, ON
8. Jacey Murphy, (Aurora Barbarians) Alliston, ON
9. Stephanie Bernier, (Club de Rugby Quebec) Quebec
10. Cheryl Phillips, (Toronto Scottish RFC) Scarborough, ON
11. Jessica Dovanne, (Velox RFC) Victoria, BC
12. Andrea Burk, (Capilano RFC) North Vancouver, BC
13. Amanda Thornborough, (Brandon Barbarians RFC) Brandon, MB
14. Bianca Farella, (Town of Mount Royal RFC) Montreal, QC
15. Magali Harvey, (Club de Rugby Quebec) Quebec City, QC
16. Marie-Pier Pinault-Reid, (Club de Rugby Quebec) Quebec City, QC
17. Sammy Crandell (Hornets RFC) Calgary, AB
18. Mary-Jane Kirby, (Highland RFC) Brampton, ON
19. Tyson Beukeboom, (Aurora Barbarians) Uxbridge, ON
20. Kayla Mack, (Wild Oats RFC) Saskatoon, SK
21. Julia Sugawara, (Burnaby Lake RFC), Surrey, BC
22. Sara Kaljuvee, (Toronto Scottish RFC) Ajax, ON
23. Katie McNally, (Guelph RFC) Guelph, ON
Player Not Dressing:
Caitlin Beaton, (Fergus Highland RFC) Clavering, ON
Claragh Pegg, (Kingston Panthers RFC) Barrie, ON
Elissa Alarie, (Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue Rugby Club) Trois-Rivieres, QC
Rugby Canada Summer Team Staff:
Head Coach: Francois Ratier
Forwards Coach: Gary Dukelow
Backs Coach: Colette McAuley
Technical Advisor: John Tait
Strength and Conditioning: Steve Mackinnon
Physiotherapist: Adrienne Stinson
Manager: Meaghan Howat
Press Officer: Jeff Hull