By Meghan Mutrie
Canada have ended their 11-year losing streak to France after winning a tough game in Dijon by 14 points to 5.
Two second half tries and a full 80-minute defensive effort in front of a capacity crowd at Stade Bourillon in Dijon saw Canada let go of their decade-old French demons.
Prior to the victory, Canada had only ever beaten France once, and they lost again to the same opposition just a few months back at the Nations Cup on home soil.
The game got off to a stuttering start as handling errors, penalties and the referees whistle were the protagonists of the stop-start first half as the 3,000 strong crowd found little to cheer about. France held a slight advantage in possession after 40 minutes, but they failed to turn the possession into a score. Individually France were solid but their backline were disjointed and had to rely on the boot of their flyhalf Cindy Reynaud and fullback Anais Lagougine for territory.
In the second half Canada came into the game hard and Araba Chintoh marked her return to international rugby after a five-year absence with five points. The 61 lock was a key for the Canadians in the air and on the ground.Chintoh scored the first try of the game by diving across the line after scrumhalf Julia Sugawara made a 20m break following a turnover.The Toronto Scottish club will be proud as two of their players tallied both tries for Canada. Cheryl Phillips (pictured), who normally plays in the outside backs, looked more than comfortable in the number 13 jersey.
New cap Andrea Burk slotted both conversions, including one from inside the 15m line, and was solid for the full 80.
Frances Fanny Horta scored a late try as Les Bleus opted to tap a penalty directly in front of the posts, but a missed easy conversion meant the French would never really threaten Canadas lead.
Match captain Maria Gallo complimentary of all five new caps, as they were all earned in high-pressure positions.
Two of the new caps were in the front row, and two were in the back three. Front row comes with a lot of responsibility and with the amount the French kick, so does the back three. I thought the new girls handled it great. Corinne [Jacobsen] even stepped up at halftime with a speech; shes a natural leader.
France made a few late impact subs and Canada should be wary next weekend as the introduction of the experienced Sandrine Agricole at flyhalf made for a huge difference. Agricoles 38 caps and kicking skills were a threat and she can be expected to start at 10 for France on Saturday.
The teams now have a quick three-day turnaround before squaring off again at the 80 000 capacity Stade de France.
Adding even more weight to this victory, the IRB announced the 2010 World Cup pools earlier today, and Canada will be in a group with Scotland, Sweden, and France.
FT: Canada 14 5 France
HT: 0 - 0
Tries: Araba Chintoh, Cheryl Phillips
Cons: Andrea Burk (2)
Tries: Fanny Horta
1. Stephanie Loyer 2. Clemence Olivier 3. Sandrine Legros 4. Clemence Audebert 5. Carole Lignon 6. Sylvie Bernard 7. Lucie Canal 8. Manon Andre 9. Stephanie Provost (captain) 10. Cindy Reynaud 11. Fanny Griselin 12. Celine Heguy 13. Fanny Horta 14. Hayate Chrouki 15. Anais Lagougine 16. Laetitia Salles 17. Nadege Labbey 19. Sandra Rabier 20. Marie Alice Yahe 21. Aurelie Bailon 22. Sandrine Agricole
1. Tabitha Stavrou 2. Brandi van Eeuwen 3. Corinne Jacobsen 4. Araba Chintoh 5. Paige Burdett 6. Heather Jaques 7. Shannon Kane 8. Barbara Mervin 9. Julia Sugawara 10. Anna Schnell 11. Andrea Burk 12. Maria Gallo (captain) 13. Cheryl Phillips 14. Julianne Zussman 15. Darcy Patterson 16. Marlene Donaldson 17. Kim Donaldson 18. Kelly Russell 19. Megan Gibbs 20. Laura Stoughton 21. Sarah Ulmer 22. Brooke Hilditch