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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

World Cup Live from the Stoop press box: England v Australia

Okay. The Big One (for today at least). A bit of background (if you need it!) - the teams have only played three times before, all England wins, the last in 2001, so ancient history. Rather more relevant is Nicole Beck's 79% conversion record - well ahead of everyone else, including England's Katy McLean who is on 65%.

Lights are on, sun has disappeared. five minutes to go. More people drifting in. Tension builds. Cheesy music starts.

Australia to kick off. An early exchange of kicks see England with a slight advantage, but most play in the centre of the field so far. Australian  line out under a lot of pressure, and the second is called not straight. Scrum England, 40m out. Aussie scrum goes backwards, setting up an excellent move. England now 5m out. Scrum. Push over. Try for Cathy Spencer. Simple, really. Katy McLean slots a fairly tricky kick. 7-0. Australian forwards in for a hard night. 7 minutes gone.

First Australian back move - good until the final pass. Katy McLean kick for position - superb. Aussie 22. Katy seems to be playing with the Australian backs - kicking the ball to wherever they are not. Australian line out just about holding under the pressure.

England putting Australian forwards under huge pressure. Australian scrums just about holding, but little secure ball.  Australia now resorting to short or lone line outs.

Fantastic run down the win from Fi Pocock - but smashed into touch 10m out.

England now win lineout on Australian throw - and now another scrum, 5m out. Aussie put in this time, held, but England line-out on 22. Second phase almost scored by Emily Scarratt, third phase ball, and in at the corner by Nolli Waterman. Katy misses this one - 12-0. 23 minutes.

Fi Pocock off on a stretcher, replaced by Michaela Staniford. May miss the final now - bit of a blow for England, opportunity for Michaela however. England playing better than they have all tournament.

Good period of play by Australia - multiple phases inside England 22 - but no forward progress. England eventually turn over and clear.

Excellent England back move, starting from a recovered Australian kick behind England 22 - all the way down the line to Barrass - who is tackled after kicking. Australia in all kinds of confusion nearly let England in anyway - but still and England line out results on 10m, and a maul just kept out. Three minutes to go - England looking for their third try are throwing the ball around - but no more score. 12-0 - half time.

Okay we are off again, and its England attacking. Maggi almost through in the centre, Staniford on the wing. But Australia hold out and its back to a scrum near the centre. 5 minutes gone.

Play fairly balanced now, England slight upper hand - and with the ball in hand Barras and Waterman return Australian kicks with interest. English backline working well - the odd ball not quite going to hand - but its exciting stuff when they throw it wide. Playing Australia at their own game, but doing it better. 10 minutes gone.

15 minutes in - first time England line broken, by Cheyenne Campbell, bringing Australia into the England end for the first time in the second half. A long period of Australian pressure followed, with the Wallaroos growing confidence. 25 minutes gone - Australia still inside England half - but rarely the 22.

Try saving tackle on England 10m. With replacements on England scrum not as dominant, and the teams are more closely matched. 12 minutes left and Heather Fisher, after several warnings, is in the bin. Could be a tight finish now.

England clear but not for long as with ten minutes left Nolli Waterman uncharacteristically drops a kick on the England 10m line and Australia are back on the England 22 - but can rarely seem to get beyond it.

Six minutes left. Line out near halfway - can England relieve the pressre  now - no. Overthrown, but England recover and move on the offensive for the first time in 20 minutes. A ruck 10 m out from Australian line - and Ruan Sims infringes and is off. Australia now down to 14, England up to 15 - and Alice Richardson slots the penalty. 15-0.

And that is the whistle. 15-0. Its been harder than expected, especially the second half. But England are through to the final on Sunday.

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