Italy defeated the United States 22-10 to open play Sunday on the second day of the Women’s Rugby World Cup at Whangarei, New Zealand.
Canada beat Japan 41-5 and Wales edged Scotland 18-15, also at Whangarei.
Top-seeded and favorite England laid down a clear marker in its opening match on Saturday when it scored 14 tries in beating Fiji 84-19. England left no doubt in the minds of any of its opponents that it will take an extraordinary team and performance to prevent them winning the world title for the third time.
The three top-seeded teams in the 12-team tournament played on opening day in front of a world-record crowd for women’s rugby at Auckland’s Eden Park stadium. France and New Zealand also won their opening games but not with the authority displayed by England.
New Zealand had to come from 17-0 down to beat Australia 41-17 and France overcame a scoreless period of almost 50 minutes on either side of halftime to beat South Africa 40-5.
Italy 22, United States 10
The Group B match between Italy and the United States always seemed likely to be one of the closest in the group rounds. Italy is fifth and the United States sixth on the world ranking list.
The United States might have been nominal favorites for their World Cup record. They won the inaugural Cup in 1991 and placed fourth at the last tournament in Ireland in 2017.
Several U.S. players took a knee during the national anthem in a protest against racism.
Italy came into the match on a high after beating third-ranked France last month. The United States had recent wins over Australia and Scotland but sustained a heavy loss to England.
The United States scored the opening try after only four minutes through Hallie Taufoou who crashed through tackles near the goal line after a pick and go attack.
The 5-0 lead held until the last moments before halftime when Italy equalized through Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi, showing off its ability to keep the ball in hand in lengthy backline attacks. The conversion gave Italy a 7-5 break at halftime.
Italy stretched its lead to 12-5 with a try to Aura Muzzo who was at the end of the line when Italy stretched the United States defense.
The U.S. rallied strongly and had a chance to level the scores with a try to Jenny Kronish after 57 minutes but the conversion missed.
Italy then made the game safe with Muzzo’s second try and another to Maria Magatti 10 minutes from the end.
Canada 41, Japan 5
England-based hooker Emily Tuttosi scored three tries as Canada showed it will have to be considered among title contenders with a win over Japan by seven tries to one.
Canada is ranked fourth in the world and has come into this tournament in strong form after recent wins over Australia, the United States, Fiji, Italy and Wales. Its only loss in its past six games was to New Zealand.
Big and physical with a rugged approach to defense, Canada also has powerful ball handlers among both its tight and loose forwards. It used its size and strength on Sunday to eventually overpower Japan, scoring five tries before halftime.
Canada made all the running in the match, scoring the opening try through winger Paige Farries after only two minutes. Japan leveled the scores at 5-5 with a try in the sixth minute to Maki Takano.
From then on, Canada exerted almost total control with a perfect record at set pieces. Tuttosi scored her first try from a lineout drive in the 14th minute and her second from a more powerful drive in the 29th minute.
Wales 18, Scotland 15
Keira Bevan kicked a penalty five minutes after the fulltime siren to give Wales a narrow win over Scotland in the most thrilling match of the World Cup so far.
Megan Gaffney had scored the second of her two second-half tries in the 78th minute to draw Scotland level with Wales at 15-15 after they had trailed 15-5 at halftime.
But a Scotland error gave Bevan the last say in the match with a kick from close range and she nailed the penalty deep in extra time to spark a delirious celebration from her teammates.
Scotland was left to reflect on an opportunity that just got away. They haven’t won against Wales in a Six Nations match since 2017, though all of their matches have been close. Wales won this year’s contest 24-19.
”It’s heartbreak,” Scotland forward Rachel Malcolm said after the final whistle. ”We got ourselves back into the game but not taking the points when we had them was critical.”
Wales almost paid for indiscipline, having two players sin-binned in the second half but were saved by Bevan’s late kick.
”It was pretty stressful,” Bevan said. ”I backed myself to kick it. I’ve been kicking for a few months now and I backed myself. It’s a bit of redemption..”
More AP rugby: https://apnews.com/hub/rugby and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports