England Saxons grind down Canada, winning 37-6 to take rugby’s Churchill Cup

WORCESTER, United Kingdom – The England Saxons won the Churchill Cup for a sixth time, running up 22 unanswered second-half points en route to defeating Canada 37-6 Saturday.

The game at Sixways Stadium was the last in the nine-year history of the rugby tournament, which is being discontinued. Gareth Rees, former Canadian captain and Rugby Canada CEO, was instrumental in the formation of the competition designed to boost North American rugby.

“It’s a disappointing way to end,” said Canadian flanker Chauncey O’Toole. “I don’t really feel we put our best foot forward today, but we’ll learn from it.”

The England ‘A’ team defeated Canada 38-18 in last year’s final after the Canadians upset France ‘A’ to make the championship game for the first time.

The Saxons won for the fourth time in five years.

Unlike the Saxons’ previous opponents this year, the Canadians mounted resistance before fading in the second half. But England used the power of its scrum to escape dangerous situations and set an offensive platform while making Canada pay for mistakes. Harlequins fly half Rory Clegg also punished Canada with his kicking out of hand.

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The determined Canadians had their chances against their fully professional opponents but were unable to break through.

“They’re a good outfit and they scrap for everything,” England fullback Mike Brown told Sky TV.

Worcester Warriors winger Miles Benjamin scored two tries in his home stadium and James Gaskell, Charlie Sharples and Jamie Gibson added singles while Clegg kicked two penalties and three conversions for the Saxons, who led 15-6 at the half.

Ander Monro had a drop goal and James Pritchard added a penalty for Canada.

Canadian coach Kieran Crowley was without wing Justin Mensah-Coker and scrum half Ed Fairhurst, who had to leave because of work commitments.

Canada, ranked 15th in the world, advanced to the final on the strength of wins of 26-12 over Italy ‘A’ and 34-18 over No. 19 Russia.

The English thumped the 17th-ranked U.S. 87-8 – running in 13 tries in the process – and No. 16 Tonga 41-14.

Canada kicked off and found itself in defensive mode from the get-go, but staved off the early pressure. The physical nature of the game was shown in the ninth minute by the blood on Canadian captain Pat Riordan’s face.

England used a smart, accurate kicking game to keep the Canadians penned in when Canada kicked the ball away.

Despite being hemmed in their own half and some poor clearance attempts, the Canadians kept England off the scoresheet until Clegg slotted a penalty over from in front of the posts in the 12th minute.

Canada capitalized off an error on the restart and Monro, with French referee Romain Poite playing advantage, kicking a drop goal.

The Canadians paid for some missed tackles in the 21st minute with fullback Brown slashing through the defence before passing to lanky Sale Sharks back-rower Gaskell for the try and an 8-3 lead.

Three minutes later, Benjamin intercepted a Ciaran Hearn pass just inside the English half and raced down the field for a try. Hearn was hit by Gaskell as he tried to pass. Clegg’s conversion made it 15-3.

Canada responded well, advancing on the Saxons’ goal-line before Pritchard kicked a penalty in the 29th minute to cut the lead to 15-6.

English mistakes allowed Canada chances to get back into the game as the first half ran down.

The Canadians attacked from the restart via a fine Phil Mackenzie run but eventually lost the ball near the goal-line when a Canadian player was isolated in the tackle.

England also used the power of its pack to escape Canadian pressure, winning a penalty from the scrum later in the half after Canada came forward again.

Pritchard missed a third penalty attempt in the 37th minute, watching the kick from the sidelines pass left of the post.

Both teams made mistakes early in the second half, wasting attacking opportunities.

Clegg kicked a penalty to increase the lead to 18-6 in the 51st minute after Hearn was penalized for not rolling away after making a tackle.

England began to take control and was able to throw on top talent like Saracens fullback Alex Goode.

O’Toole, named man of the match in Canada’s two previous matches, helped Canada get near the English line after an intercepted pass. But a Canadian penalty gave the Saxons a reprieve.

Put under pressure, Canada continued to give up penalties – especially at the breakdown.

Benjamin scored a glorious try in the 60th, pulling down a laserlike Clegg crossfield kick and sliding across the line. The score came after a dominant English scrum, triggered by a Canadian knock-on, opened up the field for the Saxons who led 25-16 following Clegg’s conversion.

Sharples padded the score in the 68th minute batting away Canadian defenders after gathering the ball at the Canadian 22-metre line following a Paul Hodgson box kick from his own 22 that opened up the Canadian defence. Clegg missed the conversion but the Saxons led 30-6.

Gibson added a converted try in the 76th minute after the Saxons slashed their way through a tired Canadian defence.

Earlier Saturday, Italy ‘A’ finished third by defeating No. 16 Tonga 27-18 while the No. 17 U.S. Eagles downed No. 19 Russia 32-25 to finish fifth.

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