Canada ran in seven tries to put a much-changed Ireland team to the sword in this one-sided Women’s November Series clash at the UCD Bowl.
While head coach Tom Tierney was trying to expand his player pool, Ireland's lack of experience up front was ruthlessly exposed by the dominant Canadian pack as the visitors stormed to a 48-7 victory.
Andrea Burk, one of Canada's stars from last July's Women’s Super Series title win, converted tries from DaLeaka Menin, Julianne Zussman and Karen Paquin and kicked a penalty for a 24-0 interval lead.
Ireland’s bench made a timely impact after half-time, helping Nikki Caughey get over for the hosts' only try, but further touchdowns from Emily Belchos, Laura Russell, Magali Harvey and Zussman gave the world's third-ranked side a comprehensive win in their first hit-out of the season.
The two captains, Paula Fitzpatrick and Kelly Russell, were heavily involved early on, Ireland skipper Fitzpatrick ripping the ball free in a tackle and her Canadian counterpart Russell attacking hard off the back of two scrums.
Canada's physical forwards were really relishing the task, and after they won a scrum against the head and pinched a ruck ball in the Irish 22, the momentum was built for prop Menin to muscle over just to the right of the posts. Centre Burk, who landed the conversion, then broke through midfield to keep Canada on the front foot.
Ireland struggled to get out of their own half, not helped by two missed touchfinders from out-half Caughey from a free-kick and penalty, while the Canadian defence gave very little away in the loose.
Good harrying and pressure from Alison Miller and Anna Caplice led to a penalty and a much better attacking platform, Caplice’s fellow new cap Nichola Fryday winning the resulting lineout in crisp fashion. However, a second lineout – this time in the Canadian 22 – was overthrown by hooker Zoe Grattage.
Canada clawed back the territory with a Kelly Russell break and subsequent kick chase, with their dominant scrum then earning a central 25th-minute penalty which Burk sent over for a 10-0 scoreline.
The influential Canadian centre also added the extras to Zussman’s well-taken try on the half hour, the pacy full-back taking a return pass from Elissa Alarie to raid in from the left wing.
Ireland lost the services of their combative full-back Mairead Coyne to injury, following a couple of heavy collisions with Latoya Blackwood and Burk, and they leaked a third try just on the stroke of half-time.
The Canadians continued to thrive on turnovers, out-half Belchos almost gathering an intercept before her forwards won back possession at the coalface and heavily-involved flanker Paquin rumbled over from close range, with Burk converting.
With six replacements on for the start of the second period, including a completely new front row, Ireland made immediate improvements to their game, and it showed on the scoreboard.
Caughey’s clever kick to the right touchline pinned Canada back in their own 22 and with possession soon back in Irish hands, an incisive run from flanker Caplice got them into scoring range. The pressure eventually paid off when Larissa Muldoon fed her half-back partner Caughey to dive over the line. The try scorer nailed a terrific conversion from the right.
But that good work was undone when Canadian pressure forced Caughey to kick poorly from behind the Irish whitewash, the ball gobbled up by the lurking Magali Harvey in midfield. She linked with Zussman who attacked out to the left and the supporting Belchos made it over in the corner.
It was all hands to the pump for Ireland after replacement prop Lindsay Peat went off her feet at a 56th minute ruck and saw yellow for repeated infringements.
Canada showed their clinical edge to notch two more tries in the next ten minutes, although Ireland held them at bay initially with Sene Naoupu's vital tackle on speedy winger Alarie and a hard-earned turnover by Miller on the opposite side of the pitch.
However, the overworked Irish defence splintered for hooker Laura Russell to strike for a seven-pointer from a close-in ruck, and the Canadian backs showed their class in the 66th minute when 2014 World Player of the Year Harvey was released on the right wing and she expertly evaded two last-ditch tackles for try number six.
Francois Ratier’s charges rounded off the afternoon’s scoring with a 78th-minute unconverted effort from Zussman, taking advantage of an overlap on the left after the Irish defence was again caught narrow.
Both Canada and Ireland will play New Zealand, who are top of the world rankings, during the coming week. The Black Ferns, who edged out England 25-22 today, will meet Canada at Donnybrook next Wednesday (kick-off 1pm), before Ireland get a shot at them in their final November Series match at UCD tomorrow week (kick-off 2pm).
TIME LINE: 7 minutes – Canada try: DaLeaka Menin – 0-5; conversion: Andrea Burk – 0-7; 25 mins – Canada penalty: Andrea Burk – 0-10; 29 mins – Canada try: Julianne Zussman – 0-15; conversion: Andrea Burk – 0-17; 39 mins – Canada try: Karen Paquin – 0-22; conversion: Andrea Burk – 0-24; Half-time – Ireland 0 Canada 24; 47 mins – Ireland try: Nikki Caughey – 5-24; conversion: Nikki Caughey – 7-24; 54 mins – Canada try: Emily Belchos – 7-29; 56 mins – Ireland yellow card: Lindsay Peat; 62 mins – Canada try: Laura Russell – 7-34; conversion: Andrea Burk – 7-36; 66 mins – Canada try: Magali Harvey – 7-41; conversion: Andrea Burk – 7-43; 78 mins – Canada try: Julianne Zussman – 7-48; conversion: missed by Andrea Burk – 7-48; Full-time – Ireland 7 Canada 48
Referee: Marie Lematte (France)