Canada push England to the limit before crashing out in Rugby World Cup semi-finals

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — England beat a determined Canada 26-19 on Saturday to extend their winning streak to 30 games and advance to the Rugby World Cup final.

The fast-paced match was a showcase for women’s rugby on a sunny but windy afternoon at Eden Park. Third-placed Canada gave No.1 England everything they could handle in a hard-hitting physical affair.

There was a turning point in the 50th minute when England, after resolutely defending a prolonged Canadian attack deep in their own half, won the ball back. Instead of kicking safety, winger Claudia MacDonald opted to run behind her try line. After breaking through the Canadian defence, she moved on to Abby Dow who sped past the last line of defense for a scoring try – her second of the day – and a 23-12 lead.

Canada finally broke through the England defense in the 68th minute with lock Tyson Beukeboom crashing in for a converted try that cut the lead to 23-19.

Emily Scarratt’s 70th-minute penalty extended England’s lead to seven points. Canada kept coming, forcing the English to follow up tackle after tackle. But England held firm.

The Red Roses haven’t lost since a 28-13 loss to New Zealand in July 2019. And they’ve now won nine straight against Canada.

The Canadians, meanwhile, entered the semifinals on an eight-game winning streak since a 28-0 loss to New Zealand in June at the Pacific Four Series.

The English are a professional team with players under contract with the Rugby Football Union. Many Canadians have jobs outside of rugby which they have put on hold to prepare for the World Cup.

England will face either No.2 New Zealand or No.4 France, who met in the second semi-final at the 50,000-seat Eden Park, in the final. The Canadians will face the loser of this match for third place.

Karen Paquin and Alysha Corrigan also scored tries for Canada, who trailed 15-12 after a first half that saw the Canadians play against the wind. Captain Sophie De Goede launched two conversions.

Marlie Packer also scored a try for England. Scarratt threw a conversion and three penalties.

It was action from the kick-off, with the Canadians applying early pressure to get beaten down by handling errors. England then attacked and, after a Canadian scrum penalty, kicked into the corner to set up a driving maul from the lineout with Packer overtaking in the ninth minute.

Scarratt’s conversion gave England a 7-0 lead.

Dow capped off a fluid England attack, highlighted by a stinging run from full-back Helena Rowland that opened up the Canadian defence, with a 15th-minute try to make it 12-0. Scarratt’s conversion attempt hit the post.

Canada responded four minutes later after Justine Pelletier rushed behind the scrum and raced down the field, going for yards before kicking Paquin off first to make it 12-5.

Canada was penalized for not rolling into the breakdown after another prolonged English attack, producing another lineout near the Canadian try line. The ball was turned wide this time and England lock Abby Ward crashed but couldn’t knock the ball off with Canadian defenders holding her off to deny the try.

Canada’s driving maul won back-to-back penalties and, after a Canadian lineout five yards from England’s try line, Corrigan went over the top in the 35th minute for a converted try that tied the game at 12-12.

Scarratt gave England a 15-12 lead with a half-time penalty after Canada was penalized for a break infringement.

England came out with a second-half goal and Scarratt kicked in another penalty for an 18-12 lead in the 43rd minute after Canadian Sara Kaljuvee was again penalized with the breakdown.

England lost Rowland to injury early in the second half. And prop Vickii Cornborough was sent off at sin-bin in the 54th minute for repeated England violations.

Canadian coach Kevin Rouet stuck with the same starting 15 that beat the seventh-seeded Americans 32-11 in the quarterfinals last weekend.

Canada and England entered the match having won their previous four matches at the tournament. And both teams boasted a strong pack with efficient driving mauls.

The importance of the Canadian field was demonstrated by the fact that Rouet, for the second game in a row, had seven forwards and only one back on the bench.

The Canadians lost veteran forward Laura Russell and running back Taylor Perry was injured on the eve of the tournament. Scrum-half Brianna Miller has been ruled out after an injury against Italy.

The tournament was originally scheduled for 2021 but was postponed due to the pandemic.

Canada’s best finish at the tournament was second in 2014 when they lost 21-9 to England in the final. The Canadians placed fourth in 1998, 2002 and 2006 and fifth last time in 2017.

England have never finished in the top three of the tournament.

The Red Roses also won in 1994 and finished runners-up five times (losing to the United States in 1991 and New Zealand in 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2017). They were third in 1998.

England entered the game with a 28-3-1 lead over Canada. The Red Roses had won the previous eight meetings, outscoring the Canadians 360-110, since a 52-17 defeat in the Women’s Rugby Super Series in July 2016.


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