Canada brought their A-game to this contest, for the second time running. They were confident enough to run the ball back at the English inside their own 22 and off-load under pressure. Forwards and backs combined well to give the Roses plenty of tackling practice.
They opened the scoring through Tyson Beukeboom, on the end of a concerted drive.
England’s work looked threatening, but in the early stages they were too untidy. Errors kept thwarting them. Hannah Botterman made telling thrusts, but they came to nothing. Zoe Harrison’s long kicks didn’t reap the rewards expected, as the ball was retrieved and run back at them.
Just before the break, England surged towards the line, but as Lark Davies attempted a final burst, she got isolated and was penalised for holding on.
Half-time: Canada 5 England 0
An elusuve run by Elissa Alarie set Paige Farries free on the right wing to hurtle over. 12-0
Not until the 49th minute did England manage to get a score on the board. A long sapping drive by the pack saw Amy Perrett run under the posts for a penalty try.12-7
When she brandished a yellow card at a Gabby Senft, the Roses pack drove a scrum forward several metres. While Perrett was playing advantage, they swung the ball left for Emily Scarratt, now on the field, to offer Smith a likely pass. As two players moved in to take her, she escaped their clutches and motored over. Scarratt converted. 12-14
This setback raised Canada’s efforts once more. Farries posted her second try after excellent handling left her unmarked on the far right. 17-14
In between the Maple Leaf forwards were driving at the English, giving them a taste of their favourite medicine.
England had been behind for most of the match but in the closing minutes they dominated posession and territory. Perrett yellowed another Canadian player to give the pack the edge they needed. Concerted drives ended with Sarah Hunter offering another of her master-classes in dribbling to score out on the right. Scarratt couldn’t convert.
This was a horribly close-run game for English supporters. At least the players didn’t panic as the game seemed to be slipping away from them
Results to date have been topsy-turvy, so there can be no certainty about the outcome of the remaining fixtures. After France’s drubbing of the Black Ferns earlier in the day, England will have to be considerably more accurate if they want to continue their unbeaten run
After the sad news of Safi N’Diaye’s enforced return home through injury, the same fate has befallen Mo Hunt. Her place has been taken by Lucy Packer of Quins. This is another left-field selection few could have predicted. She has played understudy to Leanne Riley all through this last season. We can’t be sure how pleased Wales and the Dragons will be at this news.
Result: Canada 17 England 19
Referee: Amy Perrett