England A snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with number 8 Sarah Hunter’s last minute try securing a 5-3 win over defending champions Spain in the Women’s European Trophy 2011 final in La Coruna on Saturday.
The two sides had met on English soil in March with the hosts running out 34-7 winners, but with a title up for grabs this was never likely to be repeated, despite the fact that England A had not conceded a point en route to the final.
A pulsating match actually saw the first half pass without any points being scored and it was only on the 50-minute mark that Spain, to the delight of the home crowd, broke the deadlock with a penalty by Patricia Garcia.
England A did create a few scoring chances but it was only after stepping up their efforts in the final 10 minutes that they ultimately found the breakthrough, a scrum in the corner allowing the forwards the chance to drive and push over the line through Hunter.
Ceri Large missed the conversion, but it mattered little as from the restart Georgina Rozario booted the ball into touch to spark the English celebrations.
“We are absolutely delighted to have won the European Trophy. It was a tense, heart stopping game, and we were on the edge of our seats for most of the match, but in the end we pulled through and sealed the victory,” said England A head coach Mike Barnett.
“The whole point of this campaign for us was to give the players a tough experience and we certainly got that. Our experienced girls played really well and they helped bring on our younger players and that experience is going to be invaluable to them. Certainly a lot of our players have put their hands up for selection higher up the England ladder.
“Spain were a similar side in terms of players to the team we defeated over a month ago, but they were a very different team on the pitch today. They defended tremendously, they were clinical at the breakdown and certainly had the belief they could win. To therefore come through this match and to win it in the dying minutes shows great mental strength from our squad. This sort of experience for them is invaluable.”
France A came out firing in the third place play-off with Italy at the University of Coruna, racing into a 14-0 lead inside 20 minutes courtesy of tries by centre Marjorie Mayans and fly half Audrey Parra.
The Italians, runners-up in 2010, did bounce back with number 8 Flavia Severin touching down to send her side in trailing 14-7. There was to be no comeback, though, with Laura di Muzio kicking a penalty to seal the victory and third place for France A.
First try for Finland
The fifth place play-off between Sweden and the Netherlands was unusual in that the majority of points came in the second half, with only centre Nicole Kwee’s try coming in a first half which ended with the Dutch leading 7-0.
Sweden number 8 Katarina Boman made up for her yellow card in the first half by cutting the deficit to two points with a 42nd minute try, but tries from her opposite number Christy van Oorschot ensured the Netherlands finished fifth in 2011.
Russia also ended the tournament on a winning note, beating Finland 22-5 in the seventh place play-off with the result never in doubt after tries from full back Ekaterina Kazakova, wing Marina Petrova and fly half Elena Smirnova in the first half.
Finland, who only played their first international back in 2007, have battled bravely in ever match and had cause to celebrate when captain Minna Raatikka scored their first try of the tournament 10 minutes into the second half. However, Russia restored their 17-point cushion with a second try by Kazakova.
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