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Saturday, August 06, 2011

Nations Cup: Sweet revenge for Canada, and a quandary for Street

Round two of the Nations Cup resulted in wins for England and Canada, who as a result will now meet twice in the next week - once for the last group game, and then again for the final next weekend.

For Canada their 35-17 win over the USA was glorious revenge for their defeat to the same opponents in the World Cup last year. After a tight first half, Canada - cheered on by an excited and increasingly vocal crowd  - ran away with the game, their sevens stars running riot as the US defence tired, scoring 21 unanswered points until the USA's consolation try just before the end.

Video of the game isn't yet available, but reports from the game suggested that while the US's awesome defence held for most of the first 40 minutes, keeping the visitors in touching distance, the game was a very close affair. However, once the defence had been breached and the US had to go on the offensive they had little to offer other than an over-reliance on kicking. As a result the game occasionally degenerated into a ping-pong contests where the Canadians invariably came out as winners.

Earlier in the evening what was effectively England's reserve squad put together a convincing 46-8 win over South Africa, Natasha Hunt having a dream debut with the boot, slotting three penalties and a conversion in the first half, as well as setting up the opening try in the second. With England now 26-5 ahead Street took the opportunity to give the bench some game time, Hunt being one of those replaced. This did little to reduce England's domination, Kat Merchant in particular going on to score four tries.

The success of the younger players, compared with the more stuttering performance by the big names in the opening game, could present Gary Street with something of a selection problem. The next game against Canada is a dead rubber, so there is room to experiment. On the other hand, England have never lost to Canada - a fact that creates a pressure all of its own. It will be interesting to see which team is selected.

RFU report on England v South Africa

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