New Zealand came from behind to beat the USA to take the Pacific Fours title, while Canada finished second after a big win over Australia.
New Zealand 39 USA 17
New Zealand were dealt an early blow with Iritana Hohai sent off after just two minutes after a head on head contact with USA No 7 Georgie Perris-Redding.
Perris-Redding was then sent to the sinbin for a high tackle after a fractious start to the game.
After a big loss last time out, the USA were agressive in the early stages, forcing handling errors and missed tackles from the World Champions.
They were soon rewarded for their approach, scoring tries from blindside flanker Paluvava’u Freda Tafuna from a lineout and No 8 Rachel Johnson, who drove over from close range.
A try by debutante hooker Grace Gago from a lineout drive eased some New Zealand concerns but they were reduced to 13 players with a late first half yellow card on Liana Mikaele-Tu’u.
It was 17-5 to the USA at half time with the New Zealand management making a raft of changes to bring in some more experienced players.
A trysaving tackle on the line by Kendra Reynolds seemed to galvanise the Black Ferns and then Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu was first to score, off a Kelsey Teneti break, then Pip Love who, along with Tanya Kalounivale stiffened the scrum, scored in close after a lineout. The Black Ferns took the lead for the first time at 57 minutes.
No 8 Mikaele-Tu’u bulldozed over the defence off a lineout, while Ruahei Demant, who pulled all the right strings with her calm leadership and authoritative play, and won the player of the day going for just over 45 minutes’ work, scored on the blind, busting the line.
The final effort came with a late try to centre Amy du Plessis in the corner.
The players now return to their Farah Palmer Cup teams before reconvening for the second O’Reilly Cup match against the Australian Wallaroos on September 30 in Hamilton.
USA captain Kate Zackary said on her team’s performance following the loss: “We know where we are in the future of WXV. I’m absolutely stoked for this team. They were buzzing going into this match and the first half they were absolutely electric and everyone in the stands felt it, everyone at home hopefully felt it. Things are clicking that we haven’t quite had and that’s a real testament to what’s come in the future.”
Canada 45 Australia 7
It was a disappointing end to Australa's competition with Canada totally dominant in this game.
Canada were rewarded for their early efforts when captain Sophie de Goede picked from the base of the scrum and powered over under the posts for the game’s first points.
Canada gifted the Wallaroos possession off the ensuing restart with a knock on, and the visitors made them pay minutes later through a try by flanker Ashley Marsters to draw level at 7-7.
Much to the delight of the big home crowd, the Canadians would answer back through Sarah Maude-Lachance. De Goede controlled the ball at the back of the driving scrum in midfield and, with a penalty signaled by match official Sara Cox, the ball went through the hands for the winger to score in the right corner.
Tyson Beukeboom touched down for her nation’s third try to reward an impressive set of phases by the hosts’ forward pack. Captain De Goede added one more try and conversion on the stroke of half-time to take a 26-7 lead into the break.
Hometown hero Claire Gallagher, from the University of Ottawa GeeGees, opened the scoring in the second half before Beukeboom scored again to extend Canada's lead to 40-7 after another conversion from De Goede.
The penalty troubles continued for Australia as loose-head prop Bree-Anna Cheatham was also sent to the sin-bin to bring her team down to 13 players.
Beukeboom completed her impressive hat-trick in the 67th minute in the left corner after taking a sublime offload from replacement forward Alexandria Ellis a metre from the try-line.
Beukeboom said: “It’s such an honour to be able to put this jersey on in the first place let alone 60 times and to be able to do it in front of this crowd and score three tries, which I’ve never done and probably won’t ever do again, is just so exciting. I had so much fun, I just wanted to hit things and I did and it worked out well for me.”