By Bryan Kelly
After an early try from Australia, the Canadians struck back in emphatic fashion, scoring four first-half tries, including three in a span of eight minutes, to seize momentum and take control of the contest. With three more tries in the second half, the Canadians cruised to a convincing win.
Julianne Zussman tallied her first of two tries to spark the Canadian offence in the 11th minute and after a Wallaroos try briefly put Australia back on top, an Amanda Thornborough score launched an impressive offensive surge from Canada that carried them to the final whistle.
Elissa Alarie and Karen Paquin, who was named the Woman of the Match, scored before the break, while Zussman, Alarie and captain Kelly Russell put up second-half tries.
Sarah Riordan and Liz Patu scored tries for Australia.
“That was a fun one to play,” Russell said. “We want to play with high tempo. We want use the width of the field and use our speed and we did that today. Australia played really hard and gave us a hard time in those breakdowns, but I’m so proud of the girls and the effort they put out there. The heart was amazing all throughout the tournament.”
Despite missing the Cup semifinals, Canada finished their WRWC campaign with their only loss coming against finalist and No. 1-ranked New Zealand.
The game marked Canada’s final match with head coach Francois Ratier at the helm. Francois took over as the head coach in 2013, leading the women’s team into each of the last two World Cups, including Canada’s second-place finish in 2014.
“Francois has been amazing for women’s rugby in Canada, building us to where we are (today),” Russell said. “I want to give a big thank you to him. I’m also just so proud to play with every one of these girls and the support from the Canadians here and back home has been absolutely amazing.”
Since Canada’s loss to the Black Ferns in pool play, they outscored Wales and Australia by a combined 95-12 en route to their fifth place finish. With her brace, Alarie finished the tournament with six tries, which put her in a tie with Magali Harvey for the team lead.
Canada has been in the fifth-place bracket three times at the World Cup, finishing fifth in 1991 and sixth in both 1994 and 2010. In 2014, Canada finished second overall after losing to England in the final. The Canadians and Australians met earlier this year in the International Women’s Rugby Series in New Zealand, with Canada earning a 45-5 victory.
It was all Australia early and the Wallaroos Sarah Riordan capitalized, scoring in the fourth minute to help her team to a 7-0 lead.
After Australia owned 97 per cent of possession though the first 10 minutes, the Canadians swung back off a turnover, with Julianne Zussman finishing off an 80m try. After Cindy Nelles snatched a turnover, the Canadians spun it to the wing, before Zussman nabbed a fortuitous bounce off the hands of an Australian defender and ran it in from 40m out.
The Aussies pushed back, with Liz Patu touching down off the back of a ruck to put the Wallaroos up 12-7 in the 20th minute.
Canada responded in short order, with Amanda Thornborough the beneficiary of some nifty Canadian offloading, taking a looping pass from Alex Tessier and scoring in the 28th minute to knot the match 12-12.
Taking advantage of a yellow card to Australia’s Rebecca Clough, Canada took less than two minutes to put a try on the scoreboard. Karen Paquin sent an over the top ball to Elissa Alarie and the Canadian winger took it the final 10 metres herself. Miller slotted the conversion to put Canada ahead 19-12.
Continuing to put their offensive talent on display, Canada’s Paquin weaved through the Australian defence to put up her team’s fourth try of the first half and give the Canadians a 24-12 lead heading into halftime.
Ten minutes into the second half, the Canadian offensive flair was once again on full display, with a number of short passes leading up to Zussman’s second try of the game. With Canada up a player after Australia’s Cheyenne Campbell was shown yellow in the 64th minute, Kelly Russell touched down off the back of a five-metre Canadian scrum.
Alarie notched her second of the contest in the 73rd minute and Andrea Burk put up the extra two points to cap the scoring for Canada.