England beat Canada 51-12 to extend winning run to 17 Tests

Heather Cowell scores double on Red Roses debut

Heather Cowell marked her Test debut by scoring two first-half tries as England beat Canada 51-12 at Twickenham Stoop.

Player of the Match Sarah Bern and scrum-half Claudia MacDonald also scored braces as the Red Roses extended their winning run to 17 matches. The hosts pulled clear in the second half, yet they were tested far more by this Canada team than they were by world champions New Zealand in their previous two Tests this autumn.

Canada achieved a decent platform at the scrum, defended England’s maul resolutely (the Black Ferns conceded four tries from that facet of play last week in Northampton), disrupted the breakdown and used the pace of their wingers to split the hosts’ defence.

The penalty count will not have pleased Red Roses coach Simon Middleton. Nor will the sometimes loose attacking play. While against the Black Ferns they were slick and clinical, this week passes didn’t go to hand and decisions appeared rushed. There simply wasn’t the same fluidity as seen over the previous two weekends, perhaps a result of being put under more pressure by a physical Canadian side.

Despite the errors and the ill-discipline, England ran in seven tries – starting with Cowell scoring in the corner in the fourth minute. Zoe Harrison took a quick tap, passed to Hannah Botterman, who spun around to find Helena Rowland. The inside-centre then fired a long pass to Cowell and the winger crossed at her home ground.

Canada took the lead midway through the first half when Brianna Miller converted Paige Farries’s try. That score came somewhat against the run of play but after Lagi Tuima knocked on, the ball fell to Farries, who sprinted clear from halfway.

Sarah Bern put England back in front when she bumped one defender out of the way and then burst over from close range. The TMO did check for a knock-on but the try stood and Harrison added a conversion and penalty to make it 15-7.

Then Canada’s other winger, Sabrina Poulin, showed her speed to score from a well-worked scrum move as she scythed between Tuima and Cowell to reduce the deficit.

Cowell ended the half as she started it – by scoring in the corner as England attacked from a penalty in the closing minutes.

Bern may have a ‘3’ on her back but she’s known for her try-scoring too and she added a second soon after the break, cutting a great line on the 22 to sprint over.

MacDonald crossed for England’s fifth with an arcing run from a lineout to touch down under the posts and replacement Alex Matthews ran a powerful line to power over under the posts from 20 metres out.

Then, in the 76th minute, MacDonald, by this point on the wing in a back-line reshuffle, attacked down the blindside from a lineout in the 22 to round out the scoring.

There certainly wasn’t the same sharpness from England as against New Zealand but they still produced a convincing win and will take that momentum into their final autumn Test against the USA at Worcester’s Sixways ground next Sunday.

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