Wales Women failed to win in WVX1 despite a strong performance against Canada.

Ioan Cunningham went into the game in Wellington, New Zealand, knowing he was facing a team that hadn’t beaten another team in 17 years, but he continued to respond with an emphatic first-half performance.

However, despite going into half-time just four points behind the World Cup semi-finalists, Wales impressed in the second half, with Canada scoring three tries after the break to win 42-22. For the latest rugby news straight to your inbox, sign up to WalesOnline’s daily rugby newsletter here.

Despite not having defeated Canada since victory in Cardiff in 2006, Cunningham’s team approached their first match of the new women’s world rugby tournament with confidence, now fully professional and bolstered by the return of players such as Jasmine Joyce.

But it was the Canadians who scored first, winning a penalty within the first five minutes that finally allowed captain Sophie de Grode to cross the line before converting her try.

Wales responded soon after a clever one-two at the line of scrimmage saw hooker Carys Phillips run past the Canadian defense to bring her down, and Kyra Bevan then added the conversion before converting a penalty seconds later to put her team in front.

Joyce, who returned to Cunningham’s side after leaving to take risks in the 7-a-side game, helped maintain Wales’ lead by successfully tackling her counterpart Florence Symonds.

But Canada soon got back in front and threatened to break through with winger Sarah Svoboda before defender Maddison Grant scored the third.

However, there was still time for Wales to reduce the deficit to just four before the half-time whistle when Georgia Evans pounced on the ball to clear and score.

The match was on the line as both teams entered the second half, but that was not the case for Wales, who were let down by a lack of discipline and embarrassing management errors.

Starting the better of the two teams after the break, Canada made the pressure count when defender McKinley Hunt shot over the line under the posts before Puta, who replaced Gillian Bogue, scored a fifth try.

In a touching moment, Welsh winger Lisa Neumann set up winger Alex Callender, who had promised to pay tribute to his late mother before the match, to score another try for his team.

But Canada were on top and had the final say when winger Maud Lachance crossed the line before the impressive De Guede scored her sixth goal of the match to seal the 42-22 victory.

The score won’t tell the whole story, but it was still a frustrating start for Wales, who will now face world champions and tournament hosts New Zealand in Dunedin next weekend.

“It all comes down to territory and lack of possession,” Cunningham said after the loss. —The teams that have the ball put a lot of pressure on the defense. If we can manage the center line a little better, we will have opportunities to put pressure on other teams.”