Source: INPHO

Kildunne steps

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England v Canada, Sandy Park, Exeter

Ellie Kildunne caught the eye with one of her greatest displays in an England shirt.

After Marlie Packer made her first decisive jackal in the first minute, Kildunne was on the end of a delicate cross-chip by Holly Aitchison; she shifted it on to Abby Dow, who managed to fling the ball inside to Helena Rowland as she was caught.

England 7-0 up inside two minutes, and they had a following wind.

This was the typical pattern of Canadian visits to England in recent years: a fine side deprived of adequate preparation; nine days as against the six weeks the Red Roses had enjoyed. But at the front of everyone’s mind was that one result, 26-19 to England in a gnawingly close World Cup semi-final.
This time it was the home team under new leadership, and they were intent on proving they were the new broom.

Two minutes later Aitchison made an interception, but couldn’t run clear. Instead, her team claimed a penalty, the resulting line-out turned into the familiar catch-and-drive, and Packer was in control as the ball crossed the line. (12-0)

This was not going to be a one-way procession; Canada went straight on to the attack. As they pounded at the English line, Justine Pelletier proved her value with a nimble snipe round the edge of a maul to dot down. (12-7)

Stung by this reverse, the Red Rose set up one of their many glittering handling moves. The delighted beneficiary this time was Mackenzie Carson, playing for the first time against the nation she had already represented three times. (17-7)

The next ten minutes saw another exchange of scores: first England paid the penalty for incurring the displeasure of Lauren Jenner’s whistle. The powerful Canuck pack again proved hard to stop and Tyson Beukeboom claimed the try. (17-12)

England weren’t the complete package at this stage. Two tries conceded in the first quarter didn’t look good.

This is where Kildunne displayed her exceptional skills. She weaved her way through any number of attempted tackles, stepping, retreating, dummying and blasting her way over the line. (24-12).
Canada’s lack of time together showed as passes didn’t quite hit their mark and promising combinations failed to complete. Lucy Packer added to her album with a fine long diagonal to relieve pressure. But it was noticeable that, on the one occasion she found herself the only support at a ruck, she was bundled off the ball like a papier-maché doll. She was to exact her revenge.

The ball was sent wide to Abby Dow; she gave Marlie Packer an inside pass. As it came back to her namesake, she curled inside and out to cross the line.

Half-time: 31-12

The second half proved more equal. The Maple Leafs had the breeze at their backs, but even so, the English management can’t be entirely happy with the way things turned out. England did mount what these days is their traditional half-century, but that was thanks only to a 76th minute try from Chiefs’ first home-grown Red Rose, Maisy Allen, who had the huge pleasure of scoring on her debut.

We had to wait till the 46th minute to witness Sarah Bern’s first big run down the wing. England developed an attack, but Canada won a vital turnover near their line to relieve danger.

Louis Deacon made his first changes on 50 minutes. That brought a new front row and Mo Hunt into play. Her first action was to attempt a chip in the attacking red zone and in close traffic. It didn’t succeed. So all the doubts about her rose again; why not a simple pass out to those potent backs?
Fortunately worries were cast aside as Connie Powell made a telling break to time a fine pass to Kildunne. Once more the No 15 had the skill and wit to beat the defence to the line. (38-12)

By now it won’t surprise you to learn that the Leafs came striding back for Emily Tuttosi to score their third try. (38-19) Even more telling, they spread the ball from touchline to touchline for Madison Grant to provide all the evidence we needed that here is a major figure in the making. (38-24)

And there was a full quarter of the game still to come.

Luckily for the home crowd, the remaining scores all fell to their team. They manufactured another beauty of a try: Claudia Macdonald, now on the right-wing, sped down the line. As she was caught, she flung an outstanding pass inside to Rowland who went over. (45-24) The conversion brought her tally to 20 points.

The last ten minutes were most noticeable for the return to Fifteens rugby of the great Magali Harvey. At first she had the daunting experience of remembering how many more opponents there are to deal with in this format, but then she had the pleasure of chopping Macdonald down in her tracks.
England had earned the right to have the last say: after all the fancy handling the backs had indulged in, they returned to the nitty-gritty. A kick to the corner, a catch-and-drive, and Allen was over.

England had played some wonderful stuff, but Canada, led by the outstanding Sophie De Goede, won huge huge plaudits from the crowd.

Result: England 50 Canada 24 Player of the Match: Ellie Kildunne Attendance: 9,603


15. Ellie Kildunne (Harlequins, 34 caps), 14. Jess Breach (Saracens, 28 caps), 13. Helena Rowland (Loughborough Lightning, 24 caps), 12. Tatyana Heard (Gloucester-Hartpury, 14 caps), 11. Abby Dow (Trailfinders, 35 caps), 10. Holly Aitchison (Bristol Bears, 20 caps), 9. Lucy Packer (Harlequins, 14 caps), 1. Mackenzie Carson (Gloucester-Hartpury, 5 caps), 2. Lark Atkin-Davies (Bristol Bears, 49 caps), 3. Sarah Bern (Bristol Bears, 57 caps), 4. Rosie Galligan (Saracens, 9 caps), 5. Cath O’Donnell (Loughborough Lightning, 27 caps), 6. Morwenna Talling (Sale Sharks, 7 caps), 7. Marlie Packer (captain, Saracens, 94 caps), 8. Zoe Aldcroft (Gloucester-Hartpury, 43 caps)


16. Connie Powell (Harlequins, 9 caps), 17. Hannah Botterman (Bristol Bears, 37 caps), 18. Maud Muir (Gloucester-Hartpury, 20 caps), 19. Sarah Beckett (Gloucester-Hartpury, 30 caps), 20. Maisy Allen (Exeter Chiefs, uncapped), 21. Natasha Hunt (Gloucester-Hartpury, 62 caps), 22. Megan Jones (Leicester Tigers, 12 caps), 23. Claudia MacDonald (Exeter Chiefs, 28 caps)


1. McKinley Hunt (Saracens), 2. Emily Tuttosi (Exeter Chiefs), 3. DaLeaka Menin (Exeter Chiefs), 4. Tyson Beukeboom (Trailfinders), 5. Courtney Holtkamp (Red Deer Titans), 6. Gabrielle Senft (Castaway Wanderers) 7. Fabiola Forteza (Stade Bordelais), 8. Sophie de Goede (captain, Saracens), 9. Justine Pelletier (Stade Bordelais), 10. Claire Gallagher (University of Ottawa), 11. Florence Symonds (University of British Columbia), 12. Madison Grant (Cornwall Claymores), 13. Fancy Bermudez (Westshore), 14. Paige Farries (Worcester Warriors), 15. Alex Tessier (Exeter Chiefs)


16. Gillian Boag (Capilano), 17. Olivia DeMerchant (Halifax Tars), 18. Alex Ellis (Saracens), 19. Letitia Royer (Romagnat), 20. Sara Svoboda (Loughborough Lightning), 21. Olivia Apps (Lindsay), 22. Taylor Perry (Oakville Crusaders), 23. Magali Harvey (Stade Bordelais)

Referee: Lauren Jenner (FIR)


It’s thoroughly good news that Louis Deacon and his assistants will be taking the squad to New Zealand. By the time Mitchell appears he may feel like the odd man out.

With every game England play comes the nagging thought that they could lose their prized possession of No 1 world ranking. Since they failed to win the latest RWC final, this fear looms larger than it should do.

One consequence is that selectors are less likely to take a punt with investing in new players. Of the 23 names on the list at Sandy Park only one was there for the first time, Maisy Allen.

The future calendar looks quite different from the past: the Six Nations stays in place, but the three games in WXV wlll turn up just as regularly. Those eight games will be the focus of both players and staff for the forseeable future.

Attendance: a gate of under 10,000 has to be considered a disappointment these days, yet Sandy Park was welcoming its fifth test match. It’s all very well saying how wonderful the atmosphere is there, but where is it not for a Red Roses test? Gloucester? Leicester? Northampton? HQ?