Canada put up a stiff fight against top-ranked England before fading in the second half and losing 51-12 in an international women’s rugby test match Sunday.
The third-ranked Canadians led 7-5 early before England pulled ahead — scoring 36 straight points after a Canada try late in the half cut England advantage to 15-12. The Red Roses outscored Canada 31-0 in the second half, taking advantage of their experienced bench and exploiting holes in the Canadian defence.
Canada now faces No. 11 Wales next Sunday in Cardiff, where the Welsh women downed No. 13 South Africa 29-19 on Saturday. Also Saturday, No. 2 New Zealand lost 38-13 to No. 4 France in Pau, meaning a win Sunday would have vaulted Canada into second spot in the rankings
Paige Farries and Sabrina Poulin scored tries for Canada. Brianna Miller added a conversion.
Canadian front-rower Laura Russell came off the bench in the second half to earn her 50th cap.
The Canadians were coming off 15-9 and 26-13 wins over the sixth-ranked U.S. last week in Glendale, Colo., to win the inaugural World Rugby Pacific Four Series. It was the first test matches for both countries since meeting in November 2019 at the Can-Am Series in Chula Vista, Calif.
Sunday’s test was the 10th for England since the pandemic struck. The Red Roses beat New Zealand 56-15 and 43-12 prior to facing Canada.
England controlled from the kickoff and, after a pair of penalties near the Canadian try-line, went over in the fourth minute when centre Helena Rowland’s long pass found Cowell alone on the wing for a 5-0 lead.
Canada fought its way down the length of the field, helped by a driving maul, but botched a lineout near the English try-line after kicking to touch from a penalty. The Canadians laid down a marker by winning a scrum penalty in the 15th minute, only to lose the ensuing lineout.
Farries intercepted an English pass and outraced her chasers to put Canada on the board in the 22nd minute. Miller’s conversion gave Canada a 7-5 lead, the first time England had trailed in the autumn internationals.
Bern bulled her way over in the 29th, bouncing off Canadian No. 8 Gabrielle Senft, after a sniping run by MacDonald opened up the Canadian defence, with the try surviving video review on the grounding. Harrison’s conversion restored England’s lead at 12-7.
A scrum infraction penalty against Canada’s Karen Paquin led to a Harrison penalty and a 15-7 lead in the 35th.
England mishandled the ensuing kickoff and Poulin sliced through the English defence, accelerating past centre Lagi Tuima and beating several other defenders for a fine individual try that cut the lead to 15-12.
Bern, a five-foot-seven 200-pound prop, scored her second try in the 42nd minute, finding a hole in the Canadian line and then running through Alarie and Miller. Harrison’s conversion extended the lead to 27-12.
Canada’s defence was opened again in the 51st when MacDonald, cutting away from a maul, beat Alex Tessier for a converted try under the posts and a 34-12 lead.
Canadian fly half Emily Belchos de Goede had to come off in the second half for a head injury assessment but was allowed to return.
A long-range Harrison penalty in the 61st made it 37-12 with late tries by Mathews and McDonald, in the 72nd and 76th minutes, padding the lead.
History was against the Canadians.
The Red Roses have now won 17 straight matches and 48 of their last 52 tests, losing only to New Zealand (2016, 2017 and 2019) and France (2018) over that period.
The English women have also won their last 25 tests on home soil, dating back to a 25-20 loss to New Zealand at The Stoop in November 2016.
But the Canadian women came close in their previous meeting, losing 19-17 in July 2019 at the Women’s Rugby Super Series in Chula Vista. Sarah Hunter’s 74th-minute try proved to be the winning margin with Canada’s Sophie de Goede missing a late penalty.
De Goede, a standout against the U.S., did not make the trip to Britain. She headed to Kingston to help Queen’s in the U Sport championship.
The Canadian starting 15 featured seven players with English or French clubs with the entire front row from the Exeter Chiefs.
There was also familiarity in the English ranks. Their matchday 23 included seven players from Saracens, four each from Wasps and Harlequins, and three from Bristol Bears and Loughborough Lightning.
And there was experience in reserve, with the English bench totalling 330 caps.
The women’s teams are preparing for the World Cup in New Zealand, which was supposed to be played this year, but has been pushed back to next October due to the pandemic. Canada is in a group with the U.S., Italy and Japan.