‘Magical moment’: Middleton hails Dow solo try for taking England into final

England’s head coach, Simon Middleton, has hailed the “magical moment” from Abby Dow that set up a World Cup final showdown with New Zealand. The Red Roses were staring down the barrel of a shock semi-final defeat to Canada until Dow’s 50th-minute wonder score. The winger completed a length-of-the-field counterattack to rank alongside the most spectacular tries by a European team at Eden Park.

Not since Jean-Luc Sadourny’s famous “Try from the End of the World” for France’s men’s side in 1994 has there been a more spectacular end-to-end visiting try at this hallowed venue. Dow outpaced a clutch of Canadian pursuers in a thrilling 65-metre sprint to the line that helped to seal a 26-19 semi-final win.

Dow’s race to be fit for this tournament after breaking a leg in March made it all the more special in the eyes of he coach.

“It was just a great try‚ it was incredible,” said Middleton, whose squad now face a rerun of the 2017 final, which was won by the Black Ferns.

“We were absolutely under the pump and then they went and pulled that out. Whether we’d had won or lost that was a magical moment. It should be celebrated. It’s incredible the journey she’s been on,” Middleton said.

The 25-year-old Dow was quick to pay tribute to Claudia MacDonald, who sparked the try by finding space in her own 22 before passing to the winger. “It was definitely one where, as a winger, you’ve got to back yourself.

“When Claudia gave me that ball I was like: ‘Right, we can finish this.’ I had Ellie Kildunne in support but I just decided to run as hard as I could. For myself, in terms of my recovery journey, it made every second of groaning pain worth it.”

England will now be desperate to finish the job, having last won the world title in 2014. Dow says they will embrace the challenge and not be daunted by the pressure of the occasion.

“What’s the point in going out in fear?” she said. “Let’s go out and play some great rugby.”

Middleton also suggested the Canada experience would help his side in the Black Ferns finale. “If we’d had an easy semi-final today, we wouldn’t have been ready for next week. We’ll be ready for next week now.”

The Red Roses have injury doubts hanging over Helena Rowland and Hannah Botterman but Sarah Hunter, the captain, believes the final will further boost the profile of women’s rugby.

“It will be a game that hopefully showcases what women’s rugby is about and where it’s got to,” she said. “Canada certainly made it difficult for us at times but I was really proud of how we fought and managed our way in our game. Even when we’re not at our best we find ways to win.”

The Black Ferns head coach, Wayne Smith, said England remain the favourites to lift the trophy. “They’re pretty frightening,” said the former All Blacks coach. “They’re so efficient in what they do. We’re underdogs, we’ve got nothing to lose.”