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Ferns and England remain unbeaten

New Zealand and England will go into the final game in the International Series unbeaten after recording wins over Australia and Canada earlier today.

NEW ZEALAND 44 AUSTRALIA 17 (Report: NZRU)

Making the most of a strong trailing wind in the first half, the Black Ferns built a strong position by halftime and it proved the base for their 44–17 International Women's Series win over Australia at Rugby Park in Christchurch on Tuesday.

New Zealand led 34-5 and it was just as well as the conditions worsened in the second half. Australia had cause to be pleased with the outcome, not only doing better than last year's record 67-3 loss to the Black Ferns but coming back in the second half to score two tries. This was an improved performance from what the Australians produced against the Red Roses, particularly in the second half.

Australia had started with physical intent, especially with No.8 Victoria Latu, as she did all game, making some strong runs from the base of the scrum. At one stage the New Zealanders had won only one ruck to 29 won by Australia. However, the Black Ferns' defence, and ability to turn play around quickly minimised the impact of the Australian approach.

Absorbing the early pressure, the New Zealanders secured a turnover on the right flank by fullback Selica Winiata. The ball was moved wide quickly to give left wing Portia Woodman enough room to use her speed to round Australian left wing Samantha Treherne to open the scoring after six minutes.

Australia poured the pressure on again but another mistake gave the ball to New Zealand and halfback Kendra Cocksedge put a long kick downfield. Fullback Ashleigh Hewson attempted to get a clearing kick in but it was charged down by fast-following New Zealand fullback Selica Winiata and she recovered the ball to score.

Two minutes later Winiata was in again when taking a gap after Woodman had been grounded on the left.

Right wing Honey Hireme used her footwork to break the defence and race down the sideline. She looked for support and found it in the shape of hooker and captain Faio'o Fa'amausili whose try took New Zealand out to 22-0.

The Black Ferns props Toko Natua and Aldora Itunu were prominent in some powerful forward rushes and it was Natua who got over the line to score.

Australia had some reward for their positive intent when taking a tap penalty just on the New Zealand 22m line with first five-eighths Fenella Hake making a searching break before getting the ball to wing Cobie-Jane Morgan who scored in the corner in the 28th minute.

Having become a little unstructured, the New Zealanders found it tougher to break the Australian defence with players twice being held up over the line. But an offside infringement saw the Black Ferns opt for a scrum from which No.8 Charmaine McMenamin passed for Cocksedge to dummy and take the gap to score beneath the cross bar.

Woodman scored her second try eight minutes into the second half after good work by the tight forwards driving into the south-west wind before moving the ball to the short side for Woodman to put her speed to use again.

With hail falling at stages, and the temperature dropping, the Australians created chances by opting to take tap penalties to challenge the home side. Hooker Cheyenne Campbell scored in the 56th minute then Latu had her reward with a 73rd minute try, both from penalty taps.

New Zealand enjoyed a strong finish when blindside flanker Charmaine Smith got across after two five metre scrums had allowed them to set up drives at the line which finally wore down the Australian defence.

Scorers: Black Ferns 44 (Portia Woodman 2, Selica Winiata 2, Fiao'o Fa'amausili, Toka Natua, Kendra Cocksedge, Charmaine Smith tries; Cocksedge 2 con) Australia 17 (Cobie-Jane Morgan, Cheyenne Campbell, Victoria Latu tries; Fenella Hake con). HT: 34-5

CANADA 20 ENGLAND 27 (Report: RFU & Rugby Canada)

England made it two from two in the 2017 International Women's Rugby Series with a hard-fought 27-20 win over Canada in Christchurch. Lydia Thompson scored two tries for the Red Roses while Abbie Scott and Kay Wilson also went over, with seven points coming from the boot of Emily Scarratt.

Wing Magali Harvey kicked 10 points for Canada while Carolyn McEwen and Karen Paquin crossed the whitewash but they could not find a score in the closing stages.

The win means England extend their unbeaten run to eight matches after the 53-10 win over Australia in their opening tour match.

England took the lead in the 10th minute when Scarratt made a break from her own 22 before feeding Thompson who marched into Canada’s 22. The ball was recycled and Marlie Packer then offloaded to Scott who showed great strength to power over for her second try in two matches.

Four minutes later Canada got themselves on the board through a Harvey penalty but the Red Roses hit straight back, the ball going through the hands to Thompson who outpaced her opposite number and dived over in the corner.

Canada scored their first try of the match after 21 minutes, after multiple phases prop McEwen barged her way over. Harvey slotted the conversion to reduce the gap to two points but Scarratt nailed a penalty on the stroke of half-time to take the score to 15-10.

With England piling on the pressure at the start of the second half, Canada's flanker Paquin intercepted a long pass in her own 22 and raced away to run under the posts. Harvey added the extras to edge Canada ahead for the first time in the match with 50 minutes gone.

However back came the Red Roses and it was wing Thompson again producing a moment of magic, beating several defenders on her way to the try line. Again, Harvey responded for Canada with a penalty to keep her side in touch.

England scored their fourth try on the hour mark when Scarratt broke through the Canadian defence once again and threw a long pass out to Wilson, who collected the ball and crossed in the corner to score her 11th try in her last five international matches.

Canada threw the kitchen sink at the Red Roses in the closing stages but England's defence held firm to seal victory. They next take on New Zealand at Roturua International Stadium on Saturday (KO 5:15am BST) in their final match of the 2017 International Women's Rugby Series.

England captain Sarah Hunter was pleased her side came away with a win against the third-ranked team in the world in Canada, despite not performing to their full potential. "Test match rugby is about winning games," Hunter said. "It certainly wasn’t the performance we necessarily wanted to put out there. On our behalf there was a lot of unforced errors and we made life hard for ourselves, but it shows the sign of a good team to fight and get a win when not everything is going your way."

"We definitely stepped it up but it's still not enough," captain Kelly Russell said. "We need to play the full 80 minutes and we need to fight for 80 minutes. We kept ball in our hand, we’ve got some fast players out there and you saw the kind of tempo we want to play. It’s just keeping consistent and keep the ball as we do damage when we have the ball in hand. We want to end high and on a good performance and something we can be really proud of, Today was a step in that direction and hopefully we can finish it off well against Australia.”

Head coach Simon Middleton echoed his captain's sentiments but is confident his side will learn and improve ahead of the clash with the Black Ferns. “We’re a little bit frustrated but at the same time I’m really proud of the way we hung in and won the game," Middleton said. "We had some great moments in the game and some things we didn’t’ quite get right. We have just beaten one of the best teams in the world, I think we deserved to win the game, we just made life difficult for ourselves. I’m absolutely confident we’ll learn quickly from this, which we’ll have to do going into the New Zealand game. We are two from two now, it’s where we wanted to be and we’re lining ourselves up for a great game against the Black Ferns.”

England - Tries: Scott, Thompson 2, Wilson Cons: Scarratt 2 Pen: Scarratt
Canada - Tries: McEwen, Paquin Cons: Harvey 2 Pens: Harvey 2

England: Danielle Waterman (Bristol), Lydia Thompson (Worcester Valkyries), Emily Scarratt (Lichfield), Megan Jones (Bristol), Sarah McKenna (Saracens), Amber Reed (Bristol), La Toya Mason (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks); Rochelle Clark (Worcester Valkyries), Amy Cokayne (Lichfield), Justine Lucas (Lichfield), Emily Braund (Lichfield), Abbie Scott (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Harriet Millar-Mills (Lichfield), Marlie Packer (Bristol), Sarah Hunter (Bristol).
Replacements: Vicky Fleetwood (Saracens), Vickii Cornborough (Aylesford Bulls), Sarah Bern (Bristol), Izzy Noel-Smith (Bristol), Alex Matthews (Richmond), Leanne Riley (Aylesford Bulls), Katy Mclean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Kay Wilson (Richmond).

Canada: Julianne Zussman, Magali Harvey, Amanda Thornborough, Emily Belchos, Elissa Alarie, Alex Tessier, Lori Josephson; Carolyn McEwen, Laura Russell, DaLeaka Menin, Tyson Beukeboom, Kayla Mack, Jacey Grusnick, Karen Paquin, Kelly Russell.
Replacements: Jane Kirby, Brittany Kassil, Olivia DeMerchant, Cindy Nelles, Barbara Mervin, Chelsea Guthrie, Brittany Waters, Frederique Rajotte.