Rugby World Cup: Canada remain unbeaten with clinical victory over upstarts Italy at Waitakere

Tournament debutants Fiji have created their own slice of Rugby World Cup history, snatching their maiden 21-17 victory over South Africa with a last-minute try at Auckland's Waitakere Stadium.

While their male counterparts rate among the international sevens superpowers, and the Springboks hold the men's 15s crown, neither nation is particularly well known for its prowess in women's rugby, with both ranked outside the world's top 10.

While the Pacific Islander are attending their first World Cup, South Africa have never finished better than 10th at the event, but both hold obvious potential, as they enjoy more opportunity at the top level.

Libbie Janse Van Rensburg in action for South Africa
Libbie Janse Van Rensburg in action for South Africa. Photo credit: Photosport

Fiji kept favourites England honest for most of the first half of their opening 84-19 loss last week and opened the stronger in their second match, with winger Ilisapaeci Delaiwau crossing for the first try.

Centre Zintle Mpupuha levelled the scores with the break looming, but in a preview of the final outcome, the Fijians scored through winger Akanisi Sokowasa on the stroke of halftime to lead 14-7.

They made most of the play over the second half and seemed to seal victory with a try to hooker Vika Matarugu, but it was disallowed on review for a slight knock-on in the build-up.

Instead, South Africa struck back through No.8 Aseza Hele to level the scores, Fijian halfback Lavena Cauru missed a handy penalty and the Africans seemed to clinch the comeback win, when Libbie Janse van Rensburg slotted a penalty in the dying moments to edge ahead 17-14. 

Fijiana were not to be denied, pouring onto attack and earning another penalty in front of the posts, but turning it down for the quick tap to send No.8 Karalani Naiswea barging over for the win.

"It means the whole world to us," said captain Asinate Servei. "It's the biggest stage in the world and winning one game is like winning the whole thing for us, for our team and our country. 

"It's all we talked about - keeping our composure. I think we got all excited and jittery during the game, but in the three minutes before we scored that try, we said, 'Keep it together, be patient'.

"That's what we Fijians are known for - three minutes left in the game, we can still win the game."

Both teams face tough tasks in their final pool outings, with South Africa facing unbeaten England and Fiji taking on France.

Meanwhile, Canada have continued their winning start to the World Cup with a clinical 22-12 victory over upstarts Italy.

Ranked third in the world - behind England and New Zealand - the Canadians took some time to contain an enthusiastic start from their fifth-ranked opponents, but eventually found a winning formula through their forwards to score 22 unanswered points.

The Italians had accounted for former champions USA in their tournament opener and wasted no time setting their latest opponents on their heels, with a try from the kickoff, when fullback Vittoria Minuzzi fielded a bouncing ball and sliced through the Canadian defence to score in the corner.

Paige Farries scores for Canada against Italy
Paige Farries scores for Canada against Italy. Photo credit: Photosport

Canada needed 17 minutes to respond, taking the lead, when winger Paige Farries stepped her way through to score behind the posts and halfback Briana Miller provided the extra points.

Shortly before halftime, the Canadian forwards executed a perfect driving maul from a close-range lineout, with hooker Emily Tuttosi the beneficiary.

The North Americans kept the ball among the forwards after the restart, wearing down the plucky Italians up front, before releasing to their backs for centre Sara Kaljuvee to stretch the lead with a try out wide.

Another lineout and forward drive propelled Tuttosi over for her second try, but Italy had the final laugh, with No.8 Elisa Giordano snatching a consolation try in the final minute.

Canada have now won two from two outings and face neighbours USA in their final pool encounter next Sunday, while Italy can still claim a spot in the quarter-finals with victory over Japan.

Canada 22 (Tuttosi 2, Farries & Kaljuvee tries; Miller conversion) Italy 12 (Minuzzi & Giordano tries; Sillari conversion)

Fiji 21 (Delaiwau, Sokoiwasa & Naisewa tries; Cavuru 3 conversions) South Africa 17 (Mpupuha & Hele tries; van Rensburg 2 conversions & penalty)

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