Another NZ vs England final at Women’s Rugby World Cup

New Zealand's Carla Hohepa, left, runs with the ball during the Women's Rugby World Cup semifinal match against the United States in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Tuesday Aug. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) England will defend the Women’s Rugby World Cup in the final against four-time winner New Zealand after beating France 20-3 on Tuesday.

New Zealand’s Black Ferns crushed the United States 45-12 in the other semifinal.

The final is on Saturday in Belfast. The Black Ferns, who have never lost a final, beat England in three of them.

England won a match of attrition in the rain. The English made nearly 50 tackles in the first quarter alone to withstand a French siege.

The first half finished 3-3, and England went through 20 phases to earn a second successful penalty kick. The English took another 14 phases before Sarah Bern scored the first try in the 61st minute, with a push from fellow prop Vickii Cornborough.

France inevitably rallied, and flanker Julie Annery appeared to score in the right corner, until video replay showed England replacement Megan Jones tackled her legs into touch. In injury time, Jones pounced on a dropped pass in the French in-goal.

In the end, France made 149 tackles, and England 119.

”Our defense won that game,” England captain Sarah Hunter said. ”We had a white wall in. There was no way France was getting across our tryline tonight.”

Winger Portia Woodman scored four of the Black Ferns’ seven tries, improving her tournament-leading tally to 13. Her first try was the best, a sensational solo effort from scrum ball 40 meters out. She broke four tackles in a weaving run to the posts.

After a competitive first half, in which the Eagles forced turnovers at the breakdowns, New Zealand applied all of the pressure in the second half.

The Eagles, their lineout in disarray, finally succumbed in the last quarter, conceding four tries, two while they had an extra player when New Zealand replacement Linda Itunu was yellow-carded for a head-high tackle.

While a player down, the Black Ferns increased the score from 28-12 to 38-12. Woodman bagged her fourth try, stepping U.S. fullback Cheta Emba, and replacement hooker Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate scored from a cross-kick.

Midfielder Kelly Brazier, who had helped to set up several tries, scored the last as the player of the match.

”When we were down to 14, we knew we had to step it up another notch,” Black Ferns captain Fiao’o Faamausili said.

New Zealand 45 (Portia Woodman 4, Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali, Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate, Kelly Brazier tries; Kendra Cocksedge 2 conversions, 2 penalties), United States 12 (Kris Thomas, Alev Kelter tries; Kelter conversion). HT: 15-7

England 20 (Sarah Bern, Megan Jones try; Emily Scarratt 2 conversions, 2 penalties), France 3 (Shannon Izar penalty). HT: 3-3