- England narrowly defeat USA in opening Nations Cup game
- Try from replacement lock Rowena Burnfield seals victory in last play of the match
Photo: RFU Archive
England Women opened their Nations Cup campaign with a hard fought 15-11 victory over the USA on Tuesday night at Appleby College in Ontario, Canada, with only an extra-time try sealing the win.
The defending champions and 6 Nations title holders banked the victory thanks to tries from skipper Katy McLean, vice-captain Margaret Alphonsi and Richmond lock Rowena Burnfield, who scored the crucial match winning try in the 87th minute.
The USA pushed England all the way and a try from Victoria Folayan and two penalties from centre Pam Kosanke kept their charge going as they led 11-10 in the dying minutes of the game.
In a new look England line-up, which saw Victoria Fleetwood, Laura Keates, Kay Wilson, Jenny Brightmore, Natasha Hunt and Sarah McKenna all making their debuts, England did however dominate much of the match but also squandered several try scoring opportunities.
Head Coach Gary Street said: "The importance of this tournament was evident in this match with the physicality and pressure from the USA. It is a different challenge to the 6 Nations so it is vital for the development of some of our younger and less experienced players.
"Introducing six new caps to international rugby will bear fruit in the future and we showed great maturity to win the game late on. We will get better as the tournament progresses and we look forward to playing South Africa on Friday."
With the Eagles kicking off the game Wasps lock Joanne McGilchrist took the ball nicely and McLean kicked well for territory and the backs chased well. Lichfield centre Emily Scarratt hit some great lines in the early stages of the game but the USA backs defended well and their line speed was good to close down a lot of what England were trying to do.
Photo: RFU Archive
Richmond lock Becky Essex also came close to scoring after ten minutes with a great line break but England were unable to score from it.
Fly half McLean then had the chance to put England’s first points on the board with a 12th minute penalty, but she couldn’t make the score and although full back Danielle Waterman showed some great feet and creativity heading straight back at the USA on the counter attack again England couldn’t break the USA’s line.
England’s patience paid off though and some more impressive footwork by Waterman from in her own 22 and some superb support by wing Fran Matthews saw England finally break the deadlock with McLean scoring in the corner on 24 minutes. McLean, however, was unable to add the extras.
America clawed their way back to 5-3 with Pam Kosanke adding a 32nd minute penalty and they could have taken the lead moments later with a second penalty, but to England’s relief the ball went wide.
The USA took control of the game in the second half with their one and only try of the game. Wing Folayan took the ball nicely from a kick and some strong running, where she evaded a handful of tackles, saw her score. Kosanke missed the conversion but the USA took the 8-5 lead on 48 minutes.
England managed to turn the tables on America though with flanker Alphonsi at the heart of the action, scoring England’s second try on the occasion of her 55th cap, although with McLean again missing the conversion England only led 10-8.
England’s lead was short-lived though and some careless errors, including being off-side, handed the USA the chance to go ahead with a 56th minute penalty. With Kosanke converting, they did, and led 11-10.
Photo: RFU Archive
England were far from down and out though and threw everything they had at the USA in attempt to retake the lead. A fired-up Amy Garnett, making her 97th appearance for England, took a quick tap penalty, passing the ball to Claire Allan who battled her way against the Eagles’ defensive line. A superbly placed kick from McLean handed England a lineout in USA’s 22, but again the points didn’t come.
The USA, however, buckled under the pressure with Sarah Chobot showed the yellow card for persistent foul play on 73 minutes leaving England with a one-man advantage.
England went close another two times, but again couldn’t break the try line, and McLean also missed a late penalty attempt. The Red Roses didn’t give up though and after a period of sustained pressure which saw several scrums on America’s line, lock Burnfield finally broke through, powering her way over the try-line to score in the last play of the game. With McLean missing the conversion England took the 15-11 victory.
Nations Cup match action is available at www.womensnationscup.com
15 Danielle Waterman (Worcester), 14 Francesca Matthews, (Richmond), 13 Emily Scarratt (Lichfield), 12 Alice Richardson, (Richmond), 11 Kay Wilson (Richmond), 10 Katy McLean (Darlington Mowden Park) (C), 9 La Toya Mason (Wasps), 1 Rochelle Clark (Worcester), 2 Victoria Fleetwood (Lichfield), 3 Laura Keates (Worcester), 4 Rebecca Essex (Richmond), 5 Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park), 6 Joanna McGilchrist (Wasps), 7 Margaret Alphonsi (Saracens) VC, 8 Sarah Hunter (Lichfield).
Replacements: 16 Amy Garnett (Saracens), 17 Sophie Hemming (Bristol), 18 Rowena Burnfield (Richmond), 19 Jennifer Brightmore (Worcester), 20Natasha Hunt (Lichfield), 21 Sarah McKenna (Old Albanians), 22 Claire Allan (Richmond).
Tries: McLean, Alphonsi, Burnfield
Substitutions: Garnett for Fleetwood (50), Hemming for Keates (50), Burnfield for Essex (50), Allan for Wilson (50), Brightmore for McGilchrist (60), Hunt for Mason (50), McKenna for Richardson (77).
England Nations Cup results and fixtures
August 2: USA v England KO 1130pm, WON 15-11
August 5: South Africa v England KO 930pm BST
August 9: Canada v England KO 1130pm
August 13: Finals Day KO TBC