England claimed the Women’s Rugby World Cup on Sunday thanks to a 21-9 victory over Canada in a tense final at Stade Jean-Bouin in Paris.
Centre Emily Scarratt was the star of the showing, scoring 16 points, including the title-clinching try in the dying minutes. Openside Maggie Alphonsi too deserves credit for another brilliant display in what was her final Test.
England led 11-3 at the interval thanks to a try from full-back Danielle Waterman and two penalties from Scarratt.
Canada wing Magali Harvey’s third penalty cut the lead to just two points approaching the final quarter but Scarratt’s late try put the game beyond Canada’s reach.
The two sides had met in the pool stages with a 13-13 draw securing their places in the last four, but England’s greater experience – many of the players having been involved in one or more of the last three final defeats to New Zealand – gave them the favourites tag.
Both teams emerged with the intention of playing running rugby despite the prize at stake – much to the delight of the crowd.
A Scarratt penalty that handed six-time finalists England the early lead. It could have been better for England but for some great defence from Canada captain Kelly Russell and her fellow back row Karen Paquin, who hauled down wing Kat Merchant in full flight.
Natasha Hunt was ruled held up and then Marlie Packer came close with another barnstorming run, but all England had to show for these efforts was a second Scarratt penalty.
The try eventually came just after the half hour, England keeping the ball alive to work an overlap on the right, Alphonsi sending Waterman, starting her third WRWC final, over in the right corner to the delight of the England contingent in the crowd.
Canada, though, had the final say of the half with Harvey’s penalty making it 11-3 at the break.
Canada emerged from the tunnel with renewed vigour and grew in confidence with every passing minute, wrestling the upper hand in the scrum from England and forcing penalties.
They cut the deficit to two points through two Harvey penalties, the last just creeping over the bar. Canada’s tails were up but they instantly conceded a penalty to allow Scarratt to restore the five-point cushion after an hour.
The score remained that way into the last six minutes, until Scarratt glided through the defence to ease England nerves, the centre shrugging off the tackle of Mandy Marchak to touch down for the decisive score. She converted her own try to push England out to 21-9 but, despite needing two scores, Canada fought vainly until the final whistle.
Tries: Waterman, Scarratt
Pens: Scarratt 3
Pens: Harvey 3
England: 15 Danielle Waterman, 14 Katherine Merchant, 13 Emily Scarratt, 12 Rachael Burford, 11 Kay Wilson, 10 Katy Mclean (c), 9 Natasha Hunt, 8 Sarah Hunter, 7 Margaret Alphonsi, 6 Marlie Packer, 5 Joanna McGilchrist, 4 Tamara Taylor, 3 Sophie Hemming, 2 Victoria Fleetwood,1 Rochelle Clark.
Replacements: 16 Emma Croker, 17 Laura Keates, 18 Rebecca Essex, 19 Alexandra Matthews, 20 La Toya Mason, 21 Ceri Large, 22 Claire Allan
Canada: 15 Julianne Zussman, 14 Magali Harvey, 13 Mandy Marchak, 12 Andrea Burk, 11 Jessica Dovanne, 10 Emily Belchos, 9 Elissa Alarie, 8 Kelly Russell (c), 7 Karen Paquin, 6 Jacey Murphy, 5 Maria Samson, 4 Latoya Blackwood, 3 Hilary Leith, 2 Kim Donaldson, 1 Marie-Pier Pinault-Reid
Replacements: 16 Laura Russell, 17 Olivia DeMerchant, 18 Mary-Jane Kirby, 19 Tyson Beukeboom, 20 Kayla Mack, 21 Julia Sugawara, 22 Brittany Waters
Venue: Stade Jean-Bouin, Paris