Canada will face former champions England in the final of Women's Rugby World Cup 2014 on Sunday at the Stade Jean Bouin after they enjoyed contrasting semi-final victories in the French capital.
England booked their place in a sixth Women’s Rugby World Cup final after an emphatic 40-7 victory over first-time semi-finalists Ireland, the Red Roses finally producing the all-round performance they had been craving.
By contrast Canada - the side they drew 13-13 with in the Pool A decider last weekend - will be playing in their first final after ending France's dream of lifting their first World Cup silverware on home soil with a narrow 18-16 victory.
Ireland 7-40 England DETAILS >>
Ireland started brightly and were rewarded for electing to turn down a kickable penalty when a driving maul resulted in a 16th minute try by Gillian Bourke. England, though, hit back when Rochelle Clark picked up and dived over the line after Sarah Hunter had been stopped just short.
Emily Scarratt pulled the conversion wide, ending her run of 10 successful kicks in a row. A huge push by the England scrum then drove Ireland backwards and gave Scarratt the chance to kick into an 8-7 lead in the 32nd minute, a chance she was not going to waste.
That lead quickly grew as England capitalised when Ireland put the ball over the dead ball line from the kick-off, from the resultant scrum Scarratt broke through the defence on the left with the ball quickly recycled for Kat Merchant to score on the other wing after Alison Miller missed the tackle.
England’s tails were up and Ireland were struggling to hold their rivals, making uncharacteristic mistakes which they were made to pay for, another Scarratt penalty making it 18-7 at half-time.
The second half was barely five minutes old when centre Rachael Burford waltzed through the Ireland defence to give Scarratt another kick at goal to increase England’s lead to 14 points, the girls in green simply unable to halt the Red Roses’ momentum.
With England’s greater experience in World Cup semi-finals evident, their confidence continued to grow with wing Kay Wilson just getting the ball down in time to make it 26-7. England now had the luxury of replacing captain Katy Mclean, Scarratt and Alphonsi, but that didn't stop the juggernaut as replacement Marlie Packer quickly staked her claim for a starting spot with two tries in four minutes.
“We’re delighted with the performance, I think that the scoreline reflects the fact that we really did turn up on the day and we performed really well. I’m so proud of all of the girls – the forwards and the backs all delivered and we have a huge opportunity on Sunday. We can’t wait,” said Mclean.
France 16-18 Canada DETAILS >>
Les Bleues started at a relentless pace, putting in some big hits and ensuring Canada had to defend wave after wave of attack, struggling to get out of their own half as they fell behind to a Sandrine Agricole penalty.
Canada, though, gradually began to find their feet as the first quarter came to an end and it was France’s turn to defend for their lives for a prolonged period, IRB Women’s Player of the Year nominee Safi N’Diaye managing to hold one drive up over the line.
Wing Caroline Ladagnous saw yellow just before the half hour for a dangerous tackle and another nominee Magali Harvey tied the scores. The yellow card decision seemed to galvanise the French and they hit the front again with another Agricole penalty.
Canada then suffered a blow with scrum half Stephanie Bernier stretchered off with a knee injury, but with time up on the clock they were awarded a penalty and Harvey ensured the sides went in level at 6-6.
France had not conceded a try in the tournament, but two tries in five minutes turned the match on its head at the start of the second half. The first was by Elissa Alarie, who moved from full back to scrum half after Bernier’s injury, after she darted through a gaping hole around the breakdown and raced to the line.
Then Canada turned over possession from a scrum on their own line and spread it wide to Harvey, the wing racing 80 metres down field, side-stepping would-be tackler Christelle Le Duff and outpacing her opposite number. Harvey then curled in the conversion from the touchline for an 18-6 lead.
Roared on by the crowd, France were not ready to let the dream of a World Cup final on home soil die and the forwards got the tries they craved, driving mauls ending with N’Diaye and Assa Koita dotting down, the latter after Canada had lost prop Mary Jane Kirby to the sin-bin. Extra-time seemed to be looming but with two minutes on the clock Agricole pulled another conversion wide.
"I can't stop smiling, it's just a huge rush of adrenalin. I'm not realising it fully now but I soon will," admitted Harvey.
WRWC 2014 FIXTURES AND RESULTS >>
Fifth place semi-finals: USA earn chance to avenge defeat
New Zealand 63-7 Wales DETAILS >>
New Zealand wing Shakira Baker scored four tries as the defending champions showed their true colours to brush aside the challenge of Wales in a one-sided contest at the Stade Jean Bouin.
The Black Ferns ran in a total of 11 tries in a ruthless display that will have gone some way to offsetting the disappointment of missing out on the semi-finals for the first time.
Baker completed her hat-trick inside 25 minutes and added a fourth late on after first brushing off the challenge of Welsh opposite number Adriana Taviner and then ducking under the cover tackle of Elinor Snowsill to squeeze over in the corner. Full back Selica Winiata also touched down once in each half, while second row Rawinia Everitt’s strong performance was rewarded with a try.
Welsh number 8 Sioned Harries, who scored a hat-trick against South Africa last time out, showed good poaching skills to scoop up a loose ball and score her side’s only try on 24 minutes. They had no answer to New Zealand but are at least guaranteed their best finish since WRWC 1994 - when they finished fourth.
“We just wanted to go out there and put on a good performance and finish our campaign on a high,” said New Zealand captain Fiao'o Fa'amausili. "The girls wanted to get the smiles back on their faces and it was great to play in such a fantastic stadium."
Australia 20-23 USA DETAILS >>
The Women's Eagles got their wish of a rematch with the Black Ferns on Sunday, albeit only after Australia full back Ashleigh Hewson missed a penalty attempt with the last kick of the match, one which would have forced the first extra-time of WRWC 2014.
Australia captain Shannon Parry scored the opening try in the second minute, only for Sadie Anderson to cut the deficit to four minutes later with a penalty. That would be their only points of the first half as Australia increased their lead with a try by centre Cobie-Jane Morgan to make it 12-3 at the break.
Jillion Potter scored three minutes after the restart, but Australia hit back with their third try of the match to keep the nine-point advantage. Carmen Farmer touched down for the Women's Eagles just after the hour mark but Australia's response was swift with a Hewson penalty.
That gave Australia a 20-13 lead but Vanesha McGee gave her side renewed hope with Kimber Rozier's conversion tying the scores. Rozier then kicked her side in front for the first time but the Eagles had a nervous last few seconds after mistakenly kicking the ball out thinking that time was up.
Ninth place semi-finals: South Africa end drought
Spain 18-5 Kazakhstan DETAILS >>
Points were hard to come by in the first half at Marcoussis with 34 minutes on the clock before Kazakhstan opened the scoring through replacement Anastassiya Khamova's try.
Patricia Garcia kicked a penalty for Spain three minutes later but her side were then unable to capitalise on their player advantage after Oxana Shadrina was sin-binned on the stroke of half-time.
Spain did hit the front after second row Lourdes Alameda touched down in the 53rd minute, but two missed kicks from Patricia Garcia meant the match was still very much in the balance.
She found her range again with a 70th minute penalty before replacement front row Rocio Garcia's try at the death ensured Spain can finish no lower than 10th at WRWC 2014 and leave Kazakhstan still searching for their first win.
South Africa 25-24 Samoa DETAILS >>
It took South Africa less than 60 seconds to end their WRWC 2014 try-scoring drought in an action-packed start to their match against Samoa.
After fly half Zandile Nojoko had got the Springbok Women off to a flying start, the lead changed hands three times in a pulsating first half that ended with Samoa one point in front at 21-20.
Flanker Rachelle Geldenhuys claimed South Africa’s second try, while Samoa’s three tries came from a Bella Milo brace and centre Merenaite Faitala-Mariner.
South Africa crucially only shipped three points while Celeste Adonis was sent to the sin-bin early in the second half, and went on to win their first match of the tournament thanks to Veroeshka Grain’s try on the hour mark.
The Springbok Women are now one win away from recording their highest ever finish on the World Cup stage, their best having been 10th four years ago in England.