The Canada Ravens and Brazil shared a single aim when they clashed in their final group game: to bow out of the tournament with their first win.
For the Ravens, that would be their first World Cup win since losing the in the semi-final on their debut in the 2017 version of the competition. For the Amazonas, it would be their first win since beating Argentina that same year to qualify and debut in this tournament.
The pre-match favourites were definitely the experienced Canadian team, ranked fifth in the world before this tournament.
For the Brazil women, this was only their fourth competitive match, and few of the team had been around for that game against Brazil.
But they had won hearts this year with their keenness and spirit - if not for their technical know-how. Many of the team come from rugby union - and it showed in their lack of tactical aware and skill, especially when it came to kicking.
Both teams had made changes – with Brazil in particular losing three spine-players to injury in their last match.
Brazil kicked off and went for distance, giving Canada first use of the ball and taking it tot he half-way line before kicking.
But it was the Amazonas who made the first error, failing to catch a high ball and gifting possession to Canid on their 20. The Ravens failed to make the most of the opportunity though, passing the ball forward and into touch when pressing the corner.
At the end of their attacking set, it was Canada who spilled a high kick just ahead of their 30m line and gave Brazil an attacking opportunity. which they seized with flair. Francini Amara charged from dummy half, slipped between two defenders and scored next to the posts,
That gave half-back partner Maria Graf the perfect position to take Brazil’s lead to 6-0.
With 11 minutes gone, both teams managed to spill the ball forward out of tackles before Brazil excited the crowd with a run up the left and across field by Edna Santini, which unfortunately came to nothing.
Brazil were making the most of a freer game where the priority wasn’t system and process. Unfortunately, that produced a series of regular unforced errors too, from both sides, though a more structured Brazil than we had seen so far were dominating.
With 20 minutes of the half gone, Canada started to come into their own with attacking breaks - although lost ball tended to let them down. Nevertheless, they won territory and pressed the Amazonas’ line, but without success.
But it was an open game offered excitement to fans, who were who were rewarded when Canada swung the ball to the right, beyond a compressed Brazil defence for Ferris Sandboe to run-in . Dani Frananda didn’t quite make the conversion from the touchline and Brazil’s lead was cut to two points at 6-4.
That lead was lost as the half-hour approached when Brazil spilled a high kick forward into Canadian arms in their own 20m. The Ravens moved the ball between hands to forward Sarah Maguire, who powered forward to score. This time, Frananda made no mistake and the lead was Canada’s at 10-6.
The Ravens threatened again in the right corner on 37 minutes, but a loose final pass found only the touchline.
Canada counted to press, but without success and the hooter called an end to an entertaining, iff error-strewn, 40 minutes of rugby.
When the second half, got under way,, Santini intercepted a Brazilian pass on her own 10 and raced 90 metres to score in the corner, levelling the score at 10-10, Graf couldn’t convert this one, and the scores stayed there,
With the scores level, the game settled into more of an arm wrestle for the next 15 minutes. But when it opened up again, Megan Pakulis burrowed over from dummy half as Canada camped on the Brazil line. Frananda easily kicked a simple conversion and Canada had re-established their lead at 16-6.
They looked likely to extend that when Maddy Aberg powered through the Brazil defence, shrugging off tackles on 63 minutes, but the Brazil defence held out.
As the match entered it’s final 10m, the score had not moved but the game opened up again and Brazil pressed the Canadian line with successive scrums followed by a penalty for a ball-steal.
All that ended up with with No 9 Patricia Bodeman diving over from dummy hal and the scores were level once more with less than eight minutes to play.
Canada pressed again and again, but the Brazilian defence - which had impressed all tournament, even when on the end of runaway scores - held, until Canada kicked twice from a scrum and forced a foot-race in the final minutes which Alanna Fittes won just before the deadlball line.
Frananda kicked the conversion, with the final hooter sounding as the ball was in the air.
Canada took the spoils with a 22-16 score to end their tournament in style, but Brazil had pressed them all the way and made fans throughout their involvement in the tournament.
On the evidence of this game, both squads should be exciting features of the next World Cup in three years time.
Canada: Woods; Sandboe (T), Frarnanda (3G), Bui, Mueller; Mariu, McDaid,; Okonjwo, Fittes (T), Steele, Hindley, Maguire (T) Pakulis (T). Subs: Maismith, Sargent, Maguire, Menin..
Brazil: Momberg; Santini (T), Medeiros, Welter, Soares; Moura, Graf; (2G) Amaral (T), Bodeman (T), Casemiro, Oliveira, Loschi de Qradros, Prioste. Subs: Fernandes, Leal, Barros, Jonk
Full Time: 22-16
Half Time: 10-6
Score Progression: 0-4, 0-6, 4-6, 8-6, 10-6. HT. 10-10, 14-10m, 16-10, 16-14, 16-16.
Lead Exchange: Brazil, Canada, Square, Canada, Square, Canada
Referee: Michael Smaill
Venue: 5,471 Emerald Headingley Stadium, Leeds (Double Header)