England know how to win.
Coming into the Rugby World Cup, they seemed untouchable. Riding a 25-match winning streak, they had convincingly dealt with anyone in their way.
But after they showed they could win an arm wrestle in their pool play match against France, they doubled the dose against Canada with a 26-19 semifinal win.
While Canada didn’t get the victory, they trashed the narrative that this England team would be impenetrable. The Canadians tested the Red Roses across the park; halfback Justine Pelletier and fullback Elissa Alarie in particular causing problems with ball in hand.
But ultimately it came down to the execution in big moments that decided the game. England needed no second invitation to make the most of their time on the ball in opposition territory, or to exploit space out wide on the counter attack. Canada, on the other hand, saw too many big moments fall through their fingers as they were made to work hard by the stoic English defence; lock Zoe Aldcroft particularly impressive on that front.
It was a positive start from the Canadians, who signalled their intentions early and retained possession from an attacking kick-off. England were up to the early test and didn’t waste time to move the game into Canadian territory from the boot of Zoe Harrison at the first opportunity.
Earning a penalty inside Canadian territory opened the door for England to open the scoring, with their lineout drive slicing through the opposition defence; openside flanker Marlie Packer dotting down.
She was followed over soon after by right wing Abby Dow, who took advantage of the space created as Canada needed to commit numbers to the breakdown and couldn’t scramble in time.
At 12-0, it seemed to be in familiar territory where England run away with the game. Instead, a moment of magic from Pelletier brought the underdogs into it. She shot through a gap from the back of a scrum on halfway, before putting in a perfectly weighted kick for chasing loosie forward Karen Paquin to plant over the tryline.
When centre Alysha Corrigan crossed soon after to level the scores, there was every reason for the England fans in the crowd to start getting nervous.
Penalties either side of the break kept England slightly ahead, but it was Canada who were throwing caution to the wind and moving the ball. But when they got in sight of the tryline, their struggles to convert came to the fore as attacks often fizzled out through handling errors.
A long-range try to Dow on the counter attack saw England pull ahead further, and although Tyson Beukeboom was able to cross to give Canada a chance with 10 minutes to go, England held on to clinch their place in the final.
England 26 (Abbie Dow 2, Marlie Packer tries; Emily Scarratt con, 3 pens)
Canada 19 (Karen Paquin, Alysha Corrigan, Tyson Beukeboom tries; Sophie de Goede 2 cons)
Source: NZ Herald