Black Ferns 20 Canada 10
The Black Ferns' No 1 world ranking is intact following their scrappy 20-10 win over Canada in Dublin.
That world ranking was not a major talking point for them leading into the match, but they did start well against their 2017 WRWC pool opponents. Early possession monopoly saw halfback Kendra Cocksedge make a searing break to set up the first of a brace to fullback Selica Winiata. But they were not able to convert all their chances and halftime saw the score at 8-0.
Yellow cards to locks Charlene Gubb and Eloise Blackwell, plus the constant whistle of Irish referee Helen O'Reilly, meant the Black Ferns struggled to find their rhythm and flow in a tight match. Teenaged replacement prop Aotearoa Mata'u again made an impact off the bench, crashing over for a try, while Winiata's second was down to a superb long break by left wing Renee Wickliffe.
Canada, who also lost substitute Brittany Waters to the bin at one stage, scored two tries, the first a breakout to wing and 2014 women's player of the year Magali Harvey, and the second off a lineout drive to hooker Laura Russell.
Black Ferns coach Glenn Moore was not happy with the injury toll, nor the recycling of the ball.
"We're happy to get another win, but there were some parts of the game that were messy, particularly with the recycling of the ball, which made it hard to get continuity. Unfortunately it looks like we've also got some more casualties."
But he is as much looking at performance as result less than nine months out from Women's Rugby World Cup.
"We've just been focused on trying to get a performance with a view to the World Cup next year and around a tournament-type scenario," he says.
Captain and hooker Fiao'o Fa'amausili seemed happier than her coach.
"We take great pride in the black jersey. We came in respecting that Canada is a good team but confident that we could pull off Black Ferns rugby. This is a good test for us, they are in our pool for the World Cup, and we just have to keep building from now on," she says.
Canada, for their part, were not happy either, feeling that they did not get their game going until the final quarter. They now have a very short turnaround to face England on Saturday.
This was the 12th Black Ferns' victory, with no defeats, against Canada. Now the Black Ferns refocus for a side that has lowered them. They face Ireland in the early hours of Monday morning, the home side the last team to beat them, in a major upset in the 2014 World Cup.
Black Ferns 20 (Selica Winiata 2, Aotearoa Mata'u tries; Kendra Cocksedge con, pen)
Canada 10 (Magali Harvey, Laura Russell tries) HT: 8-0