England Women will be eager to return to Yorkshire after they claimed victory over Canada in their first match in the White Rose county.
As part of an attempt to inspire a new generation of players, the Red Roses travelled north to Doncaster Knights’ Castle Park and were enthusiastically cheered on by a crowd of 3,876.
The women’s game is growing at a rapid pace and the Rugby Football Union hope that taking the national side away from their usual base in Twickenham will see an increasing number of young girls wanting to play rugby union.
England will return to Doncaster in just a few months when they host France in their opening home game of the 2019 Women’s Six Nations on February 10.
Following victory over the world’s fourth-ranked side England have now lost just once in 2018, a one-point defeat against Grand Slam winners France in the Six Nations earlier this year.
A packed Castle Park witnessed a game that was filled with desire and determination from both sets of players.
Canada could have been forgiven for a supposed lack of sharpness considering that they were playing in their first Test match in 2018.
But the visitors – who were comprehensively beaten in a three-match Test series by England just under 12 months ago –started well.
They provided Simon Middleton’s side with a stern test and trailed by just three points midway through the second half.
Middleton had made 10 changes to the starting XV that had comfortably defeated the USA 57-5 in their opening game of the Quilter Internationals and England fielded a relatively youthful side with seven players in the starting line-up who had fewer than 10 caps to their name.
But despite a stuttering start they built up a 15-0 advantage inside the first half hour.
Most of the contest was played in the Canadian half, but despite their dominance England led by only eight points at the interval.
Two tries from Lark Davies and one from Poppy Cleall had put the Red Roses in control.
Davies opened the scoring before doubling the advantage soon after when she picked the ball from the base of the ruck and used her strength to claim her second try of the afternoon.
Cleall’s try came after a maul had formed from the lineout, but despite spending most of the half defending Canada hit back with the last play of the half.
Alex Tessier opened the visitors’ account as she got between the scrambling England defenders to catch and ground Anais Holly’s delicate kick.
England were roared on by the raucous home support and should have gone farther ahead at the beginning of the second period, but Canada managed to stand firm.
The visitors then reduced the deficit to just three points as Elissa Alaire intercepted deep in her own half and outpaced the chasing defenders.
But the world’s second-best team soon showed their class to settle any nerves that may have been permeating around Castle Park.
Kelly Smith fought off two tacklers to force the ball down in the right corner before England’s constant pressure saw Abbie Scott burrow over next to the uprights three minutes from time.
Canada grabbed a consolation with the final play of the game through Courtney Holtkamp.
Ireland are up next for Middleton’s side in what will be their final Quilter International.