Third-ranked Canada conceded a try in less than 30 seconds but rallied to beat Italy 22-12 Sunday in a Group B match at the Women’s Rugby World Cup, sealing a quarterfinal place.
Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi shocked Canada with a try from her first touch of the ball, crossing the line barely before the sound of the opening whistle had died away.
Canada regrouped and won comfortably with the help of two tries to hooker Emily Tuttosi who now has five tries in two matches.
New Zealand also qualified for the quarterfinals with a 56-12 win later Sunday over Wales. Fiji beat South Africa 21-17 in the final match of the day.
Captain Sophie de Goede had claimed the kickoff for Canada who cleared the ball into the Italy half. Italy moved the ball wide and fullback Ostuni Minuzzi received it on the left flank, cut through a weak tackle and went straight to the tryline.
Canada quickly regrouped and worked back into the match through its strong forward pack, setting up good field position. After an a passing move which stretched to both sides of the field, winger Paige Farries straightened the attack, took a gap in midfield and then swerved under the posts for Canada’s first try. De Goede’s conversion gave Canada a lead it didn’t relinquish.
Tuttosi, who scored three tries in Canada’s first-up win over Japan, added two more from powerful lineout drives as Canada took control of the match. Her first contributed to a 12-5 halftime lead and her second came after a brilliant try to Sara Kaljuvee and gave Canada a 22-5 lead after 56 minutes.
Canada is one of the most methodical teams at the tournament. It has a solid set piece base and Tutossi profits from the quality of its lineout drive. Its backs also are of high quality and have the ability to create sustained attacks.
Italy opened it tournament with a 22-5 win over the United States and looked good again at times on Sunday. Its backs are polished and among the most adventurous at the tournament. It took some consolation from a try in the last minute to Elisa Giordano.
Canada now has two wins from two matches and will progress to the final eight. Italy and the United States have one win each from two matches in Group B while Japan has had two losses.
“It’s massive (to make the quarterfinals),” de Goede said. “We came here wanting to win the World Cup and the first thing is to get wins and bonus points and we managed that in our first two games.”
New Zealand 56, Wales 12
Veteran winger Portia Woodman scored two tries and had a hand in several others as New Zealand turned in an outstanding attacking performance to beat Wales.
Center Sylvia Brunt scored a try in each half and also played an influential role for New Zealand’s Black Ferns who won by 10 tries to two.
There still were some concerns for New Zealand fans. It took the Black Ferns 18 minutes to score their first points and they then scored four tries in 10 minutes. New Zealand had a lull in the last 10 minutes of the first half during which Wales scored its first try through Ffion Lewis to make the score 22-7 at halftime.
The Black Ferns then had a great start to the second half with three tries in the first 10 minutes to lead 39-7. Tries continued to come at regular intervals until the last by fullback Ruby Tui after the fulltime siren.
Wales managed another also to Siwan Lillicrap two minutes from the end.
“I’m pretty happy with the way the team bounced back from last week,” New Zealand captain Ruahei Demant said. “To come out here and stake moments and win each moment was pleasing.”
Fiji 21, South Africa 17
Karalaina Naisewa crashed over under the posts in the 79th minute to score a try which gave Fiji a thrilling 21-17 win over South Africa in Group C, its first-ever World Cup victory.
Moments earlier, flyhalf Janse van Rensburg had kicked a penalty which broke a 14-14 deadlock which had lasted 21 minutes and seemed to clinch a South African victory.
But Fiji surged onto attack from the kickoff and Naisewa moved through the South Africa defense close to the line to give Fiji a win in only its second World Cup match.
There was immediate jubilation among the crowd which was overwhelmingly made up of Fiji supporters and who recognized the significance of the moment. Fiji had overcome a mountain of obstacles just to be at the World Cup and the victory was a triumphant occasion, giving the Pacific Island nation a chance of still making the quarterfinals.
The Fiji women were trampled 84-19 by England in the first round of the tournament but the defeat didn’t make a dent in their spirit.
“It means the world,” said Fiji’s Siteri Rasolea who was the star of the match for her powerful carries. “There are a lot of girls who have made a lot of sacrifices to be here today.
“I’m just so glad that we held it together for each other. We had a few girls who went down (with injuries) but our captain just said we had to play for everyone who’s on the pitch and who didn’t make the team this week.”
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Steve Mcmorran, The Associated Press