Canada spoil France's party

Date published: August 13 2014

Canada held on for a slim 18-16 semi-final victory over hosts France to make the Women's Rugby World Cup Final.

Canada held on for a slim 18-16 semi-final victory over hosts France to make the Women's Rugby World Cup Final.

Magali Harvey's wonder try in the second half stunned the hosts into submission to book Canada's spot in the final and a rematch against Pool rivals England, but only after late drama as France fell narrowly short down to Sandrine Agricole's missed conversions.

This was a tense contest early on between two evenly matched sides, vastly different to England's dismantling of Ireland earlier in the day.

The atmosphere generated by an impressive crowd at the Stade Jean-Bouin underlined just how far the Women's game has come in recent weeks, with the host nation blaring their team on after emerging from a Pool including Australia, Wales and South Africa.

Naturally the vocal crowd provided the early inspiration as France took the lead, Agricole opening the scoring after Canada rushed up offside with a penalty.

Canada, with two players in their starting XV nominated for the Women's IRB Player of the Year Award in captain Kelly Russell and winger Harvey, were pinned back into their half for the majority of the first quarter.

The Canadians couldn't make the most of the five-metre lineout when the pressure was on but their scrum was on top and the resultant pressure gave Canada a second bite.

France were fortunate to not go down to 14 men defending on their own line but their defence did repel successive Canadian attacks, the fist pumps at each small success reiterating the importance of the occasion. Somehow, their scrum creaking, France survived.

Crashing defence from Marjorie Mayans lifted the crowd before Safi N'Diaye, the other Player of the Year nominee on the park, came to the rescue at the breakdown. Desperate stuff from France in defence but enough to keep Canada out for now.

Controversy though undermined the French efforts as Caroline Ladagnous was sin-binned for an alleged tip tackle on Elissa Alarie. Harvey slotted the penalty to tie things up at 3-3.

Agricole's second penalty came after good territory for France to restore their slender lead, playing arguably better despite their personnel deficit as Canada lost Stéphanie Bernier to a serious injury before half-time.

Time was left however for Harvey to level the scores, after the Canadian winger was checked late following a kick ahead by Ladagnous who cost her side three points to leave things at 6-6 at the interval.

Canada absolutely shot out of the blocks in the second half, Alarie racing away to score their first try before an utter moment of magic.

Harvey's try was a special moment, the star winger going over in the corner and showing sensational speed as the Canadians completed a length of the field try that started from a scrum on their own five-metre line. If you missed it, do not fear – it will be replayed over and over again.

From 6-6 to 6-18 in a matter of minutes. France were understandably rattled but had to keep calm with so much time left to play.

If Harvey had been Canada's inspiration, then N'Diaye was the source for France. The number eight duly scored a try off the back of a rolling maul as the hosts hit back to an approving roar from their supporters, Agricole unable to add the conversion at the second attempt after an early charge.

Relying on their maul France began to grow desperate with the clock winding down, the decibel levels rising as they attacked from a lineout deep in the Canadian 22.

Mary Jane Kirby's yellow card felt like a pivotal moment as Canada went down to 14 and the inevitable followed, France driving over from the maul to leave Agricole with a crucial conversion to tie the scores.

She couldn't make it, hooking the ball left to keep Canada ahead before the final whistle rung out to crush France's hopes of a home final. It was one hell of a spectacle.

The scorers:

For France:
Tries: N'Diaye, Forwards
Pens: Agricole 2
Yellow Card: Ladagnous

For Canada:
Tries: Alarie, Harvey
Con: Harvey
Pens: Harvey 2
Yellow Card: Kirby

France: 15 Christelle Le Duff, 14 Marion Lièvre, 13 Shannon Izar, 12 Marjorie Mayans, 11 Caroline Ladagnous, 10 Sandrine Agricole, 9 Jennifer Troncy, 8 Safi N'Diaye, 7 Manon Andre, 6 Columba Diallo, 5 Assa Koita, 4 Marine De Naidai, 3 Elodie Portaries, 2 Gaëlle Mignot, 1 Hélène Ezanno

Replacements: 16 Laetitia Salles, 17 Lise Arricastre, 18 Christelle Chobet, 19 Sandra Rabier, 20 Laetitia Grand, 21 Jessy Trémoulière, 22 Elodie Poublan

Canada: 15 Elissa Alarie, 14 Magali Harvey, 13 Mandy Marchak, 12 Andrea Burk, 11 Brittany Waters, 10 Emily Belchos, 9 Stéphanie Bernier, 8 Kelly Russell, 7 Karen Paquin, 6 Jacey Murphy, 5 Maria Samson, 4 Latoya Blackwood, 3 Hilary Leith, 2 Kim Donaldson, 1 Marie-Pier Pinault-Reid

Replacements: 16 Laura Russell, 17 Olivia DeMerchant, 18 Mary Jane Kirby, 19 Tyson Beukeboom, 20 Kayla Mack, 21 Julianne Zussman, 22 Jessica Dovanne