A remarkable four-try haul to Lark Atkin-Davies has helped power England to a 45-12 over a brave Canada in Dunedin. It sets up for an intriguing final WXV 1 round next weekend, when England will play off with New Zealand in a rematch of last year’s Rugby World Cup final.
The absorbing first half saw the ball in play for a number of long periods, as both sides strived to move the ball. However, it was a very handy kick that broke the deadlock early when Holly Aitchison sent the ball towards the Canadian line and a wicked bounce caused a mix up in defence. Full-back Ellie Kildunne showed great awareness to follow up and ground the ball, the TMO confirming the try after the replay clearly showed her hand getting there first.
Kildunne then followed up soon after with an excellent 50:22, but tough Canadian defence kept them out. From there the game settled into an entertaining series of possessions for both sides as they often found space to run into. Gradually Canada gained the upper hand and patiently worked the ball into the English 22, unlucky not to score when a pass was knocked down by Aitchison.
The Red Roses fly-half received a yellow card for the infringement and Canada took the opportunity to launch a successful lineout drive, which resulted in a try for hooker Emily Tuttosi on the half-hour mark.
That stung the English pack into action, only a few minutes later setting themselves up for a lineout drive of their own. Lark-Davies rumbled over for her first try, a feat she clearly enjoyed enough to repeat the process as the hooter for half-time sounded.
Canada weren’t done, though, straight after the resumption an errant English pass was scooped up by Shoshanah Seumanutafa. The outside-centre weaved a lovely path towards the line and released a perfectly-timed pass to the flying Paige Farries, who went half the length of the field to score.
However, Lark-Davies and her English pack were in a rampant mood, again striking for another two tries in the space of five minutes. The fourth was even more costly for Canada, as it came off the back of a yellow card to Julia Schell for a dangerous tackle. The English hooker was given a well-earned rest after that as her side began to roll the substitutions.
England didn’t take their foot off the pedal, though, scoring two sensational tries in the final 12 minutes. Kildunne was the provider for both, first cruising around the Canadian edge defence and curling around to link up with Jess Breach. The prolific wing sped away to score her 35th international try, only moments later Kildunne was on hand to provide a pass for Claudia MacDonald to weave her way infield and score.
Even though the result was beyond doubt, Canada kept fighting and spent the rest of the game hot on attack. They were unlucky not to score when a pass just slipped out of Farries’ reach, but also had to contend with an English tackling effort that kept up its intensity right till the final whistle.
Canada will play their final match against France in Auckland next weekend, while England will know exactly what they have to do against New Zealand if they are to be crowned the inaugural WXV 1 champions.