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Classy England set up titanic tussle with Black Ferns


By Andrew Baldock

Holders England booked a Women's Rugby World Cup final appointment with New Zealand after beating France 20-3 in Belfast. Prop Sarah Bern and substitute back Megan Jones scored second-half tries during an absorbing defence-dominated contest at Kingspan Stadium.

Centre Emily Scarratt kicked two penalties and two conversions, setting up a mouthwatering showdown against the Black Ferns in four days' time.

New Zealand, recently installed as the world-ranked number one team, secured their place in the final by brushing aside the United States 45-12, yet England toppled them when the countries last met two months ago.

France dominated large periods of the semi-final's opening 40 minutes, yet they floundered on a magnificent England defence that time and time again denied their opponents.

The collective English rearguard was such that they completed 51 tackles during the first 12 minutes, with flanker Marlie Packer in defensive form as they battled to contain a French side possessing powerful runners.

England took a 17th-minute lead when Scarratt, whose goalkicking had been under the microscope in the tournament, landed a short-range penalty, leaving the French to engage in a collective bout of head-scratching that they had fallen behind.

England then lost full-back Danielle Waterman for a head injury assessment and the French drew level just before half-time through a penalty from their London-born wing Shannon Izar.

Packer continued in dominant defensive mode and the teams trooped off all square at 3-3.

England kept their opponents pinned back after the break, and it took some superb French defence to deny them after 20 phases of forward-dominated attacking, before a penalty was awarded for offside and Scarratt landed her second-successful kick.

England broke French resistance through forward Bern who crashed over from close range for a try that Scarrett converted.

Jones completed a brilliant try-saving tackle on France flanker Julie Annery, which underpinned their place in the final.

Belfast Telegraph


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