PARIS, FRANCE - Canada's Women's Team secured a place in the Rugby World Cup Final after they beat host nation France 18-16 in an outstanding performance at Stade Jean Bouin. Second-half tries from full-back Elissa Alarie and wing Magali Harvey - along with eight points from the boot of the latter - stunned the French side on Wednesday.
IRB Women's Player of the Year nominee, Harvey, was a star of the show with her superb solo try worthy of winning any match as Canada move into Sunday's Final against England, who comfortably overcame Ireland 40-7 in the earlier semi-final.
Scenes of joy were etched on the faces of Canada's squad after an outstanding achievement from Francois Ratier's side was played out in front of 20,000 fans. The game itself proved to be an all-action affair as neither team went into their respective shell, despite the importance of this being a WRWC semi-final fixture.
Canada were looking to establish a blend of their strong scrum and speed in their backline while France had several destructive runners up front at their disposal.
And it was the host nation who opened the scoring with six minutes played when Canada were caught offside after being turned over in their 22, leaving veteran number ten Sandrine Agricole the chance to send over the points for a 0-3 lead.
Still, the early signs were positive for the Canadians as lovely hands - evident throughout the competition - allowed the elusive Harvey to slip a couple of French tacklers before being felled. Her big moment, however, would come later on.
The scrum was proving to be a real weapon in Canada's arsenal as it won them a kickable penalty. But number eight and Canada's second Women's World Player of the Year nominee Kelly Russell opted to turn down the three and instead kick to the corner. Unfortunately the throw-in from hooker Kim Donaldson wasn't straight.
France would find themselves down to fourteen players before the half-hour mark when the match referee spotted a tip tackle from left wing Caroline Ladagnous on Canada's Alarie, which was a call that led to Harvey levelling the scoreline at 3-3.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, the French were intent on striking back in quick time as full-back Christelle Le Duff set off down the line. However, winger Harvey spotted this and covered good ground before making a try-saving tackle.
France would though manage to put points on the board six minutes before the break when Canada failed to roll away, leading to Agricole making it 3-6 in Paris.
But the two teams would go into the break all square as a late tackle from the returning Ladagnous allowed Harvey to level on the hooter, this after Canada scrum-half Stephanie Bernier was stretchered off with a painful knee injury.
The opening stages of the second-half proved a fruitful period for Canada as full-back Alarie scored the first try of the game after she spotted no guard at the ruck and promptly set off for the line from 40 metres out, making it 11-6 to Canada.
Harvey's missed conversion clearly rattled her and she more than made amends with arguably the try of the 2014 tournament on 46 minutes as, from turnover ball on her own line, the wing raced over on a slalom run, adding the extras from the touchline for good measure as Canada moved 18-6 ahead. It was truly special.
France were now the ones rattled as time wore on but one always sensed that with the deficit only two scores, the hosts would not go down quietly on home soil.
And so it proved as from a trademark line-out drive, powerful number eight Safi N'Diaye was the last woman to her feet. The missed conversion meant Canada still held a seven-point lead, with the crowd volume now increasing by the second.
France sensed this and were not finished as following a yellow card for Canada replacement Mary Jane Kirby for an offence at another maul, the hosts crashed over again through replacement Laetitia Salles, leaving Agricole with the pressure kick which fortunately for Canada was missed as they held on for an epic victory.
Tries: Elissa Alarie, Magali Harvey
Conversions: Magali Harvey
Penalties: Magali Harvey 2
Tries: Assa Koita, Safi N'Diaye
Penalties: Sandrine Agricole 2
Canada's Women's Roster to face France on August 13:
1. Marie-Pier Pinault-Reid, (Club de Rugby Quebec) Quebec City, QC
2. Kim Donaldson, (Burnaby Lake Rugby Club) Toronto, ON
3. Hilary Leith, (Capilano RFC) North Vancouver, BC
4. Latoya Blackwood, (St. Anne de Bellevue) Montreal, QC
5. Maria Samson, (Calgary Hornets) Calgary, AB
6. Jacey Murphy, (Aurora Barbarians) Alliston, ON
7. Karen Paquin, (Club de Rugby Quebec) Quebec City, QC
8. Kelly Russell, Captain (Toronto Nomads) Bolton, ON
9. Stephanie Bernier, (Club de Rugby Quebec) Quebec City, QC
10. Emily Belchos, (Markham Irish RFC) Barrie, ON
11. Brittany Waters, (Meraloma Athletic Club) Vancouver, BC
12. Andrea Burk, (Capilano RFC) North Vancouver, BC
13. Mandy Marchak, (Capilano RFC) Winnipeg, MB
14. Magali Harvey, (Club de Rugby Quebec) Quebec City, QC
15. Elissa Alarie, (Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue Rugby Club) Trois-Rivieres, QC
16. Laura Russell, (Toronto Nomads) Bolton, ON
17. Olivia DeMerchant, (Woodstock Wildmen) Mapledale, NB
18. Mary-Jane Kirby, (Highland RFC) Brampton, ON
19. Tyson Beukeboom, (Aurora Barbarians) Uxbridge, ON
20. Kayla Mack, (Wild Oats RFC) Saskatoon, SK
21. Julianne Zussman, (Town of Mount Royal RFC) Montreal, QC
22. Jessica Dovanne, (Velox RFC) Victoria, BC
Brittany Benn, (Guelph Redcoats) Napanee, ON
Cindy Nelles, (Oakville Crusaders/McMaster University) Belleville, ON
Julia Sugawara, (Burnaby Lake RFC) Surrey, BC
Amanda Thornborough, (Brandon Barbarians RFC) Brandon, MB
Canada's Women's Team Staff:
Head Coach: Francois Ratier
Forwards Coach: Gary Dukelow
Backs Coach: Colette McAuley
Strength and Conditioning: Steve Mackinnon
Physiotherapist: Adrienne Stinson
Manager: Meaghan Howat
Analyst: James Kent
Media Manager: Bryan Kelly
1. Helene Ezanno
2. Gaelle Mignot (C)
3. Elodie Portaries
4. Marine De Nadai
5. Assa Koita
6. Coumba Diallo
7. Manon Andre
8. Safi N'Diaye
9. Jennifer Troncy
10. Sandrine Agricole
11. Caroline Ladagnous
12. Marjorie Mayans
13. Shannon Izar
14. Marion Lievre
15. Christelle Le Duff
16. Laetitia Salles
17. Lise Arricastre
18. Christelle Chobet
19. Sandra Rabier
20. Laetitia Grand
21. Jessy Tremouliere
22. Elodie Poublan
RUGBY CANADA WOMEN'S FIFTEENS 2014 FIXTURES
CANADA 51-7 USA
April 15, 2014
Shawnigan Lake School, Mill Bay, BC
CANADA 14-10 USA
April 19, 2014
Westhills Stadium, Langford, BC
CANADA 22-0 AUSTRALIA
June 6, 2014
Tauranga Domain, Tauranga, New Zealand
CANADA 8-16 NEW ZEALAND
June 10, 2014
Tauranga Domain, Tauranga, New Zealand
CANADA 21-33 NEW ZEALAND
June 14, 2014
Rugby Park, Whakatane, New Zealand
WOMEN'S RWC - CANADA 31-5 SPAIN
August 1, 2014
WOMEN'S RWC - CANADA 42-7 SAMOA
August 5, 2014
WOMEN'S RWC - CANADA 13-13 ENGLAND
August 9, 2014
WOMEN'S RWC SEMI-FINALS - CANADA 18-16 FRANCE
August 13, 2014
WOMEN'S RWC FINALS – Canada vs England
August 17, 2014
Kickoff 6:45pm local (12:45pm ET/9:45am PT)