Canada (21) 42
Tries: de Goede, Svoboda, Grant, Hunt, Boag, Lachance Cons: de Goede 6
Wales (17) 22
Tries: Phillips, Evans, Callender Cons: Bevan 2 Pen: Bevan
Wales threatened to end a 17-year losing streak to Canada before they were eventually overpowered in their opening WXV1 game in Wellington.
Ioan Cunningham’s side went toe-to-toe with one of the powerhouses of women’s rugby with the match finely poised at 21-17 at half-time.
But indiscipline ultimately cost Wales as Canada edged the physical battle after the break.
Sophie de Goede led from the front with a try and six conversions to her name.
Wales had not beaten Canada since their 2006 encounter in Cardiff but, with the squad now fully professional, they went into this match with confidence.
Canada were on the scoreboard inside the opening five minutes. A penalty for not rolling away gifted them a five metre driving lineout from which to launch an attack.
The skipper de Goede peeled off the pack and charged towards the line before finishing off a series of pick and goes.
Wales hit back almost immediately after Canada were penalised. Robyn Wilkins’ kick set up an attacking lineout from which Wales are notoriously deadly.
But it was not their traditional maul this time. Instead hooker Carys Phillips threw a short ball to Alisha Butchers who returned the pass for the hooker to crash over with the defence napping.
Keira Bevan nailed the touchline conversion before adding a penalty to put Wales ahead after 28 minutes.
Canada continued to threaten when Florence Symonds tore down her wing, but sevens star Jasmine Joyce came across with a superb try-saving tackle.
Canada’s second try came after full-back Madison Grant gathered her own high kick before flanker Sara Svoboda powered between tacklers to cross.
Grant scored herself moments later from a well-worked set-piece after Symonds came off her wing to create an overlap in midfield.
With the game threatening to slip away, Wales reduced the deficit on the stroke of half-time when second-row Evans plucked a loose pass from Alexandra Tessier and raced clear to the line.
Canada began the second half the brighter of the teams and and Wales’ defence eventually caved after being trapped deep in their own half when prop Hunt crashed over under the posts.
Evans and Olivia Apps were forced off following a clash of heads that prompted the eagerly-awaited introduction of Kate Williams, the Auckland-raised New Zealand naval officer who linked up with Wales at last year’s World Cup.
Wales tried to force a way back but were frustrated by losing possession whenever they went through the phases.
And with Wales’ penalty count hitting double figures, Canada were gifted territory and a fifth try when replacement hooker Gillian Boag broke free of a lineout drive.
Wales were not done. Wing Lisa Neumann made a powerful run before flanker Alex Callender crashed over for an emotional score having vowed before the game to honour her late mother Donna who died earlier this year from cancer.
It was Canada who had the final say and it came straight from the scrum. Player of the match de Goede picked up from the base to send wing Maude Lachance sailing over to wrap up a convincing win.
Wales now fly to Dunedin where the hosts and world champions New Zealand await, while Canada take on the number one side England.
Wales head coach Ioan Cunningham said: “It comes down to territory and lack of possession, the teams that keep hold of the ball puts a lot of pressure on defensively. If we can manage the halfway line a bit better that would give us opportunities to put pressure on other teams.
Wales captain Hannah Jones said: “It is very pleasing to see how far we have come, I am very proud of the girls, we stuck it out until the end and we will look back now, re-group and look forward to the next game.
“Belief has been a big focus of the week and I definitely think it’s there.”