England have got their second win of the tour of New Zealand, but it was a much tougher test than their previous outing against Australia.
The Red Roses won 27 – 20 against a strong Canada side, scoring four tries through Lydia Thompson (2), Abbie Scott and Kay Wilson.
Their first score came after nine minutes, as Emily Scarratt took advantage of quick ball and broke from her own 22. She passed to Lydia Thompson, who showed great strength to bump off the full-back and break through another couple of tackles before being brought down about 20 metres short of Canada’s line.
A couple of phases later, a beautiful flat pass from fly-half Amber Reed put flanker Marlie Packer through a gap, and she offloaded to Abbie Scott who crossed for a try under the posts.
Canada scored their first points from a Magali Harvey penalty, but the Red Roses hit back with another try, some lovely hands from Scarratt and Waterman sending Lydia Thompson sprinting to the line.
Prop McEwen scored Canada’s first try after a series of pick-and-gos on the English line. The Red Roses defended well, but were eventually worn down by the sheer number of phases. Harvey added the extras, but Scarratt kicked a penalty for the Red Roses just before half time to make the score 15 – 10.
England started the second half well, but a pass was intercepted by Canadian Paquin, who showed good pace to go from her own 22 to the try line. Harvey again converted and the Red Roses found themselves two points behind.
They soon put that right, though, wing Lydia Thompson showing some incredible footwork and balance to beat numerous Canadian tacklers. She touched down for her second try of the game, a superb individual effort which Scarratt duly converted.
Not to be outdone, England’s other winger Kay Wilson crossed for a try on the hour mark. A good line-out win on the Canadians’ 22 metre line produced quick front-foot ball which the backs exploited, substitute Katy McLean producing a lovely offload to Emily Scarratt, who steamed through the gap and flung the pass out wide, where Wilson gathered and raced away to score in the corner.
The Canadians piled the pressure on the English defence in the last few minutes, but the Red Roses stood firm and held them out, coming away with a hard-fought 27 – 20 win.
POTM: It has to be wing Lydia Thompson for her two tries, both of which were impressive – the first showcased her raw speed, the second her incredible footwork and strength. She also helped set up England’s first try, powering her way through a couple of defenders and staying on her feet until her support arrived. She has been shifted from the starting line-up to the bench and back again a few times over the past few months as England search for their best wing combination, but she certainly proved her worth in this game and, with Amy Wilson-Hardy injured, I’d expect Thompson and Kay Wilson to be England’s first-choice wingers going into the game against New Zealand.
Tries: Scott, Thompson 2, Wilson Cons: Scarratt 2 Pen: Scarratt
Tries: McEwen, Paquin Cons: Harvey 2 Pens: Harvey 2
This was always going to be a much tougher game than the one against Australia, and frankly, it’s what the Red Roses need. Yes, it’s fun to watch them put fifty points on the opposition, but in the long term, games like that will not help them improve, so the Canada game was a welcome challenge.
And it was a challenge that England passed, winning by seven points and outscoring their opponents by four tries to two. Their attack was at times fluid and accurate, aided by good work from the forwards at the breakdown and set piece, which produced quick ball and put the defence on the back foot. Emily Scarratt showed why she is so highly rated, making breaks and linking well with her wingers and, as mentioned above, Lydia Thompson had a stormer.
In terms of things to improve, the Red Roses should tighten up their defence around the rucks, as Canada made metres around the fringes and scored their first try after a series of pick-and-gos. Additionally, they let a few unforced errors into their game and will need to tighten up their accuracy and discipline.
The second try was a good read by the Canadian flanker who picked off the pass, and the risk of an intercept is always greater when your attacking line’s flat, so perhaps runners could stand a little deeper in the back line. That said, England should not change their style of attack, getting the ball through the hands quickly and exploiting the space out wide, as it has paid dividends for them and works very well.
The Red Roses face an even tougher challenge on Saturday when they meet New Zealand in Rotorua. It is a fantastic opportunity for them to really test themselves against the best side in the world in their own back yard and is sure to be a great spectacle.