England Women were crowned Nations Cup champions on Saturday night after a 41-19 victory over Canada in Ontario, handing the Red Roses a second title this season after their RBS 6 Nations championship win in March.
Gary Street’s side, who have remained unbeaten this season, powered to the victory thanks to a brace of tries from vice-captain Margaret Alphonsi and touch downs from Sarah Hunter, Alice Richardson, Claire Allan and Katherine Merchant. Katy McLean and Emily Scarratt also added 11 points from the boot to secure the win.
Head Coach Street said: “This tournament victory sums up exactly why we come to play in tournaments like the Nations Cup. The standard and intensity of the rugby this year has meant we have had to perform to world class level and that is vital as we build towards our autumn international programme.
“The win against Canada showed why it is vital to work on core elements of rugby skills because although Canada was very athletic and powerful, our ability to produce skills under pressure and play winning rugby was paramount. I am delighted that we have won the Nations Cup and so are all the players and staff. This is a great start to what is going to be a challenging but very exciting new season.”
The victory also saw England hooker Amy Garnett reach a significant milestone in her career and England Rugby history, with the 35-year-old becoming the first ever female player to win 100 caps whilst playing for England.
Garnett said: “To win 100 caps is just tremendous. I have had a fantastic rugby career with so many memorable moments and playing with some world class athletes. To reach this milestone and cap it with another win in the Nations Cup is fantastic.”
England had to work hard for the victory with the second half proving decisive as the tourists racked up 24 points to secure the tournament victory.
England put the first points on the board with Lichfield full back Scarratt adding a sixth minute penalty but Canada’s Laura Russell had worked hard to break England’s defence early on but couldn’t make the final move to touch down. Canada, nevertheless, fought back hard and Andrea Burk added an eight minute penalty to draw the scores level.
16 minutes in and a scrum to Canada was broken down twice before England were given the reign. Captain McLean made a good break and Margaret Alphonsi, placed in an open position and in support, ran through the Canadian defence to get the first try. Scarratt easily stroked over the conversion to give England a 10-3 lead.
Merchant then eased England into a 3-15 lead when McLean made another great break from a scrum. With Merchant in support the flying wing outpaced three Canadians to score in the corner. Scarratt had a tricky kick to convert in the corner but she did handing England a 3-17 lead.
Canada returned the fire with some brilliant footwork, as Jen Kish bypassed several defenders to score their first try. That wasn’t converted but the hosts managed to reduce England’s lead to 11-17 with a 40th minute penalty.
After the break England underlined why they are ranked second in the world as they overwhelmed Canada, showing real strength all over the park. Again Merchant made a good break, and Alphonsi was in support to take the pass. The flanker was taken down in the tackle but England retained possession and recycled the ball out to Richardson who broke through the middle of Canada’s defence to score down the wing and in the corner. Scarratt was unable to add the conversion but England still had an 11 point advantage.
Canada hit back with their second penalty with Phillips adding the points, but England maintained their momentum and were duly rewarded with No. 8 Hunter powering over the try line from a good England scrum. Scarratt again converted.
On 68 minutes Allan added England’s fifth try as England turned over Canada in the scrum. England recycled the ball well through to Allan in the midfield and executing a great side-step the Richmond centre touched down to score. Scarratt couldn’t add the conversion this time but England were firmly in control with a 14-34 lead.
Canada’s spirits never dampen though and a valiant effort from their backline saw inside centre Mandy Marchak bag a last minute try, though it was England who had the final say with Alphonsi securing her brace of tries on the stroke of full-time as she stole the ball from a Canadian line-out and burst through to score. With McLean this time adding the conversion England secured the 41-19 victory and the Nations Cup crown for a fourth successive tournament.
In the Nations Cup third and fourth place play-off the USA were victorious defeating South Africa 29-9
photos Janos Schmidt