Source: Dave Rowland/Getty Images

A Glorious Game of Rugby

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Canada v France

I shouldn’t call this the third topsy-turvy result of the series, but pre-match France had looked the out-and-out winners.

No, the two nations have been competing for that third place in the world hierarchy for a long time.

Today the Maple Leafs put on a show to remember.

France won the first penalty for holding on. Morgane Bourgeois potted it to give her side a heartening lead.

The opening phases were all about the boot. Critics who dislike this part of the game must remember never to call it rugby FOOTball.

Les Bleues seemed to go 30-love up when Pauline Bourdon-Sansus, at last restored to her proper place, nicked the ball from Justine Pelletier’s grasp behind a scrum. The backs made good use of space and handling to allow Marine Ménager her first dangerous run down the flank. When the Canadians regained possession, Julia Schell made a poor clearance to touch, gaining little yardage.

Even better for the French, PB-S made a wonderful dive over two much larger defenders to land beyond the try-line; bravery and athleticism combined. 10-0

They were playing with complete abandon, even a scuffed kick across field and along the ground helped them gain territory. The pace of their game demanded intense commitment from the Canucks. Their hard toil was to pay off.

Over half-an-hour passed before they put together a threatening move. A break through midfield led to an attacking line-out, and Emily Tuttosi, at the top of the line-out accuracy stats, had her reward with a try. 10-7

Now it was Nassira Kondé’s turn to see yellow for a head-on-head tackle on Alex Tessier. Though it didn’t produce results, the ensuing scrum saw four Maple Leaf backs line up one behind the other, a real autumn leaf-fall.

France had been well on top, but at half-time their lead was an almost invisible three points.

The start of the second half saw a wonderful passage of play. As so often happens, two loose French passes affected the opposition more than them. Emeline Gros made a huge break through midfield and the French hammered at the line. But then a turnover and Canada countered. Krissy Scurfield was on the end of an outstanding move of many off-loads to put them in the lead at last. 10-14

At this point Gabrielle Vernier left the field for an HIA, to be replaced by Caroline Boujard.

Fortunately for France Vernier was allowed to return later.

By now the balance of power had clearly shifted. Only an unsuccessful reverse pass by Sarah- Maude Lachance prevented a further score.

The Canadian pack were coming into their own. They mounted a powerful scrum to send their opponents reeling backwards. Around this period France yielded three penalties, always a sign of undue pressure. The result was a second try, by the same Tuttosi. 10-19

It was high time for a French response. That meant a tap-and-go by Bourdon-Sansus; but for once she had no support handy.

At this point on came Annaëlle Deshayes into the front row after too long an absence. Yet more changes, no doubt with a coach’s message attached, and ultra-quick hands saw Ménager cut an intelligent line to score. Another Bourgeois conversion reduced the lead to two points. Smelling- salts needed again.

It was the Canadians who responded. Another lovely move finished with Fancy Bermudez giving and taking passes to run to the line. She is another young player to make her mark on the tournament. 10-26

Already the position was close to desperate for the French. For all their attacking flair, they weren’t getting points on the board.

By the time a series of quick breaks led to a penalty in front, the three points Bourgeois added still left them needing a converted try. Only eight minutes on the clock. 20-26

Events shut the door on them. An inaccurate pass let Florence Symonds put in a thunderous tackle on Ménager, and Kondé fell offside. Sophie De Goede added three more points. 20-29

Till now I have failed to mention her presence. Rest assured, she was everywhere.

A last offensive by the French ended with an unfortunate knock-on by Émilie Boulard. The look on her face summed up a nation’s feelings.

Result: Canada 29 France 20

Player of the Match: Fancy Bermudez


Canada: 1 McKinley Hunt, 2 Emily Tuttosi, 3 DaLeaka Menin, 4 Tyson Beukeboom, 5 Courtney Holtkamp, 6 Gabrielle Senft, 7 Sara Svoboda, 8 Sophie de Goede (captain), 9 Justine Pelletier, 10 Julia Schell, 11 Krissy Scurfield, 12 Alexandra Tessier, 13 Fancy Bermudez, 14 Paige Farries, 15 Sarah-Maude Lachance

Bench: 16 Gillian Boag, 17 Brittany Kassil, 18 Alex Ellis, 19 Laetitia Royer, 20 *Julia Omokhuale, 21 Olivia Apps, 22 Shoshanah Seumanutafa, 23. Florence Symonds

France: 15 Morgane Bourgeois, 14 Marine Ménager, 13 Nassira Kondé 12 Gabrielle Vernier, 11 Émilie Boulard, 10 Lina Queyroi, 9 Pauline Bourdon-Sansus, 1 Ambre Mwayembe, 2 Laure Touyé, 3 Assia Khalfaoui, 4 Manae Feleu (captain), 5 Audrey Forlani, 6 Emeline Gros, 7 Gaëlle Hermet, 8 Charlotte Escudero

Bench: 16 Elisa Riffonneau, 17 Annaëlle Deshayes, 18 Yllana Brosseau, 19 *Kiara Zago, 20 Léa Champon, 21 Alex Chambon, 22 Carla Arbez, 23 Caroline Boujard

Referee: Maggie Cogger-Orr (NZR)
ARs: Lauren Jenner (FIR) and Tiana Anderson (NZR) TMO: Rachel Horton (RA)