Hooker Lark Atkin-Davies scored four tries from the back of the driving maul as top-ranked England continued its mastery over No. 4 Canada, winning 45-12 Friday at the WXV women’s rugby tournament.
England scored two late tries to lead 21-5 at the break and had its way with a tiring Canada in the second half.
The Canadian women have lost 12 straight to the Red Roses, with four of the defeats coming in the last year. England’s career record against Canada improved to 32-3-1.
Canada last defeated England in July 2016 in Salt Lake City (52-17). The Red Roses have gone 74-5-0 since then, beaten only by No. 2 New Zealand (four times) and No. 3 France (once).
Canada dropped to 1-1-0 at the six-team tournament while England improved to 2-0-0. The Canadians wrap up play Wednesday against France in Auckland.
“I’m sure we’ll go back and find positives, but in the moment it’s just really frustrating,” said Canada captain Sophie de Goede.
“We just didn’t pull through with the performance we wanted today, honestly,” she added.
England’s power was on display with the Red Roses runners consistently making metres, often leaving the first Canadian would-be tackler in their wake. And when Canada conceded penalties, English lineouts set the platform for the five-foot-four 187-pound Atkin-Davies and the maul.
Emily Tuttosi and Page Farries scored tries for Canada at Forsyth Barr Stadium, which opened in 2011 as the world’s first fully enclosed natural turf stadium. The roof was welcome given it snowed earlier in the day.
De Goede kicked a conversion.
Ellie Kildunne, Jess Breachand Claudia Macdonald also scored tries for England, a fully professional side. Helena Rowland kicked four conversions with Holly Aitchison adding another.
England led at the half despite losing Aitchison to the sin-bin in the 30th minute. Canada was also temporarily reduced to 14 players when Julia Schell was yellow-carded in the 57th minute for a high tackle.
De Goede, one of eight Canadian starters who play their club rugby in England, and England captain Marlie Packer both play for Saracens. Packer came into the game as the world’s leading try-scorer in 2023 with 11 tries while de Goede was the leading points-scorer with 76.
The game was refereed by transplanted Canuck Maggie Cogger-Orr, a native of Markham, Ont., who studied in Ottawa and Hamilton before moving to New Zealand in 2014. Cogger-Orr represented Ontario and Canada at age-grade level while playing club rugby for the Toronto Scottish.
Cogger-Orr refereed the opening game of last year’s Women’s World Cup between South Africa and France.
Former Canada prop Mackenzie Carson started for England, winning her 10th cap for the Red Rose.
Carson grew up in Abbotsford, B.C., and won three caps for Canada including a 2018 match against England. Eligible for the Red Roses through her English-born mother, she made her England debut earlier this year.
Carson, who moved to England in 2019, became the first player to represent England – men or women – under World Rugby’s birthright transfer rule, which allows players to switch countries if they have spent at least three years away from international rugby.
England came out with purpose, pressuring the Canadians.
The Red Roses went ahead in the eighth minute with Kildunne, who scored three tries in her last two outings against Canada, touching down a grubber kick after Canadian fullback Sarah-Maude Lachance just failed to get a hand to the ball behind the try-line.
Several other early English attacks ended in miscues deep in Canadian territory.
The Canadians regrouped and launched an 18-phase attack that ended in an England penalty for a deliberate knock-on near its try-line. That resulted in the yellow card for Aitchison.
Tuttosi scored from the ensuing lineout, touching the ball down at the back of the maul in the 31st minute to cut the England lead to 7-5.
England, still down to 14 players, showed its power off the lineout with a pair of Atkin-Davies tries from the back of a maul in the final minutes of the half.
England made 10 handling errors in the first half, compared to five for Canada.
The speedy Farries scored an opportunistic try on a solo run four minutes into the second half after the Canadians pounced on an errant pass by Kildunne in their own half. The conversion cut the lead to 21-12.
England responded with tries from Atkin-Davies in the 51st and 57th minute. Breach and Macdonald padded the lead with tries in the 69th and 71st minute as the Canadian defence was carved open.
The WXV is a new three-tier annual competition with the Canadians in the elite WXV 1 division. WXV 2 and 3 wrap up this weekend in South Africa and Dubai, respectively.
The WXV top tier features the top three teams from the Women’s Six Nations (England, France, No. 6 Wales) and the top three from the Pacific Four Series. The Canadians qualified by finishing runner-up to New Zealand in the Pacific Four Series which wrapped up in July in Ottawa. No. 5 Australia was third.
Canada ran in six tries in a 42-22 victory over Wales on Saturday in Wellington. England opened the tournament with a 42-7 win over Australia.
France upset New Zealand 18-17 in the other first-round game, avenging its one point loss in last year’s World Cup semi-final. The French win snapped the Black Ferns’ 16-game winning streak.
On Saturday, it’s New Zealand versus Wales and France versus Australia, also in Dunedin.
Canada finished fourth at last year’s World Cup, beaten 26-19 by England in the semi-final and 36-0 by France in the third-place match. Wales exited in the quarter-finals, falling 55-3 to eventual champion New Zealand.
The championship game loss ended England’s 30-match win streak. The Red Roses have won all nine outings since then.