England Women Sevens face a tough quarter-final against World Sevens Series leaders New Zealand tomorrow (Saturday) when the tournament resumes at the Twickenham Stoop.
England had already beaten South Africa and Russia to secure qualification through to the quarter-final, but Canada put them to the sword to secure top spot in the pool on day one.
The Canadians put on a sublime sevens display to record a 31-0 victory and take the gloss off England’s day, which had started so well.
England were never in the pool decider and converted first half tries from Ghislene Landry and Ashley Stacy gave the home side a mountain to climb.
Karen Paquin was the stand-out player on the field and the Canadian added two tries – the second an outrageous effort as Paquin jumped to steal England’s lineout, landed and sprinted 80 metres to score.
Bianca Farella added the final score on the fulltime whistle to leave the score 31-0 in Canada’s favour.
The story had been much more positive for England earlier in the day.
They beat Russia 21-12 as second-half tries for Joanne Watmore and Marlie Packer sealed the result after Russia had gone 12-7 ahead.
However, Simon Middleton’s charges kept their composure and retained possession well in the face of a some strong defence and breakdown pressure from their opponents.
England started with pace and energy, putting the phases together calmly. Indeed, they would certainly have built up a significant lead but for two last-gasp turnovers.
Eventually though, territorial ascendancy told and Emily Scarratt burst into a gap to dive over. Katy Mclean’s conversion made it 7-0.
Russia have proved tough to put away for the majority of the series though, and scored either side of the break, both Baizat Khamidova and Nadezda Kudinova crossing from long range.
Watmore, however, punished an overlap on the right before Packer was sent over the whitewash by a deft Natasha Hunt offload.
Earlier, England also saw off a stubborn challenge from South Africa, prevailing 28-7 thanks to tries from Natasha Brennan, Michaela Staniford, Kay Wilson and Hunt.
Middleton said: “We are through to the quarter-finals but the Canada defeat was certainly not the result we were looking for. It was hugely disappointing after our performances against South Africa and Russia where we stuck to our game plan and worked really hard. I think against Canada we were out enthused, out energised and certainly outplayed.
“We now have a massively tough game against New Zealand but to be honest any team is tough at the moment and that is testament to how good the women’s series is.
“Tomorrow the focus has to be on what we do. That is the bottom line. We have to execute our game plan, match the energy and enthusiasm of New Zealand and if we do that we’ll be right in there because our skills are good. Sometimes when you lose in the fashion like we did against Canada that galvanises a team and I am confident we will do that.”
England Sevens Squad:
Natasha Brennan (Richmond)
Rachael Burford (Thurrock)
Abigail Chamberlain (C) (Richmond)
Natasha Hunt (Lichfield)
Katy Mclean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
Marlie Packer (Wasps)
Emily Scarratt (Lichfield)
Michaela Staniford (Wasps)
Joanne Watmore (Richmond)
Amy Wilson-Hardy (Bristol)
Kay Wilson (Thurrock)
Sarah McKenna (Saracens)
England playing schedule:
May 15, Twickenham Stoop
England 28 South Africa 7
Tries: Brennan, Wilson, Staniford, Hunt
Conversions: McKenna (3), Mclean
England 21 Russia 12
Tries: Scarratt, Watmore, Packer
Conversions: Mclean (3)
England 0 Canada 31
May 16, Twickenham Stoop & Twickenham Stadium
Cup Quarter-final: England v New Zealand, KO 11:14am