England advanced to the Women’s Rugby World Cup semi-finals following an absorbing 13-13 draw against Canada in Marcoussis – Canada’s point meant that New Zealand, winners of the past four tournaments, will now not be able to progress to the final four.
England were on the attack at the end of this game but opted to take the draw rather than press for victory, knowing they would top the pool on points difference, and that the Kiwis would not be able to make the last four as best runners-up because they could not match Canada’s total of 12 points. England’s No 8 Sarah Hunter scored her side’s only try, midway through the second half, with centre Emily Scarratt converting and adding two penalties.
An early Scarratt penalty had put Gary Street’s side 3-0 up, but Canada hit back and, after a spell of sustained pressure, flanker Karen Paquin barged her way over the line from a well-worked driving maul.
Both sides had chances as the half progressed, most notably England when Ceri Large twice put through good kicks. But Danielle Waterman knocked on just short of the line and then Kat Merchant did likewise in the tackle over the line. A second Scarratt penalty on the stroke of half-time restored England’s lead, however, and they went in 6-5 to the good.
Canada charged out after the break with real intent, and put pressure on the English defence, which told after 46 minutes when replacement Kayla Mack pushed her way over to make it 10-6. England finally touched down for their only try after a spell deep in the Canada 22. After a strong scrum, Hunter was on hand at the base to dot down, and then Scarratt’s conversion made it 13-10.
Canada wing Magali Harvey slotted home a penalty to make it 13-13 with seven minutes to go but, as the clock ticked past 80 minutes, England knew a draw would be enough and scrum-half Natasha Hunt found touch to bring the game to a close.
“It was physical and competitive. We knew Canada would front up and they definitely brought their game to us,” England’s vice-captain Hunter said after the match.
“We know that we’ve been in a battle and it was a great game to be involved in. We’re delighted to get out of the pool – that’s what it was always about.”
England go through as Pool A winners with Canada waiting on the result of Australia’s late kick-off against France.
Elsewhere, Pool B winners Ireland joined England in the semi-finals with a 40-5 triumph over Kazakhstan. It was the first time in Ireland’s history that they had reached the final four of the competition.
Ireland had shocked New Zealand 17-14 in their Pool B fixture last Tuesday.