Black Ferns happy after tough win against Canada

Getty Images     13 Jun 2014     Getty Images

With six minutes remaining and the score reading 16-3, Evans was feeling understandably confident of his side's chances of victory.

But a late and deserved try to Mandy Marchak cut the deficit to eight points and proved a timely reminder of Canada's attacking threats.

"We certainly pride ourselves on our defence and there was some very good line speed and defence, particularly in midfield and covering across," said Evans.

"Again, they did threaten us towards the end. They started to find a few chinks and got a bit of go-forward through certain parts of the field."

Evans, though, can hardly be disappointed with his side's late defensive leak. For 74 minutes they held Canada tryless in testing conditions at the Tauranga Domain and illustrated why the side's defence is as strong as its backline.

New Zealand's two prior victories, 38-3 over Australia and 90-12 over Samoa, illustrated a clear gap in fitness. That certainly wasn't the case against a well-conditioned Canadian side that had prepared well for the series.

"Although we had two games leading up to [the win], we were very aware of their recent record over the last couple of years. They've got some great athletes - fast, athletic, competitive. They were all of those things."

The eight-point defeat was easily Canada's best outing against New Zealand, comfortably surpassing the 24-8 defeat they tasted at the unofficial 1991 Women's Rugby World Cup in Wales.

Evans said the fourth-ranked Canada had improved remarkably over the years and that bridging the gap between themselves and the top two in England and New Zealand could only be good for women's rugby.

"I think they're a tough team. They're gritty and they look like they enjoy their football. They kept coming and put some shots on and they were still in the hunt the whole way.

"Their application was commendable, to be honest."

While satisfied with the win, New Zealand will know there is still plenty of work to do against the quickly-improving Canadians. The Canucks' quick line speed affected the Black Ferns' decision making and the tactics that Evans and the side had discussed pre-game were nowhere to be seen.

"This is an intelligent football team and they were very aware of it after the game. They players knew there was a definite step up in aggression on defence so perhaps that caught us unprepared."

He also hinted there could be further changes for the side's final game of the series to help the side prepare for 'worst-case scenarios' come August's world showpiece.

"That's not devaluing the test - the reality is the first thing is we have to win, but we also need to try out combinations."

Whakatane's Rugby Park hosts Saturday's encounter, with kickoff scheduled for 2.30pm.