England end the group stage in fine form with a glut of goals against Canada
Phil Roper (2 FG, 45 CP); Nick Bandurak (16 FG, 38 CP, 50 CP, 59 FG); Liam Ansell (19; PC); Zach Wallace (24PS, 44PS); Stuart Rushmere (54 CP); Sam Ward (55 FG)
Brendan Guraliuk (11 CP, 56 FG)
England finished Pool B unbeaten after beating Canada 11-2 at the Commonwealth Games.
Top scorer Nick Bandurak led the charge with four, while Phil Roper and captain Zach Wallace both contributed with two apiece.
Sam Ward, Stuart Rushmere and Liam Ansell also got in on the act to complete the scoring in Birmingham.
Canada entered the second quarter at 1-1, but a red card for Balraj Panesar left them facing a tough fight.
The result means England finish second, level on points with India at the top of Pool B but with an inferior goal difference.
The host nation will now face Australia in Saturday’s semi-final at 6 p.m., where the winner will be guaranteed a medal at the 2022 Games.
England: Payne, Waller, Wallace, Ward, Albery, Roper, Goodfield, Ansell, Condon, Sorsby, Smith.
Subtitles: Griffiths, Sloan, Mazarelo, Rushmere, Creed, Bandurak, Calnan.
England got off to a dream start to their final group stage game when Roper finished smartly with a deft reverse shot, after a clever dismissal from David Condon.
Already assured of a place in the last four, the host nation looked relaxed and in control of possession early on.
But Canada showed their ability to break quickly and scored on one of their first attacks of the match.
A foul from Tom Sorsby led to a penalty corner and, after an early double save from Oli Payne, Brendan Guraliuk converted from close range to level the score.
England responded quickly in the second quarter and retook the lead when Zach Wallace made a wonderful break down the right to give Bandurak the chance to get his inevitable goal.
Ansell added the third after a long, quickly taken corner reached him at the top of the circle, the striker spinning a defender and finding the net with a precise finish.
England’s turmoil continued when Wallace converted a penalty kick, after a goal-bound shot was blocked by a Canadian foot.
The main flashpoint of the match came in the dying seconds of the first half, a showdown between Panesar and Chris Griffiths which saw the Canadian outraged at the grip of his stick.
His aggressive reaction led to a red card from the officials, while Griffiths saw yellow.
Once England were back to full squad, the rest of the game took on a familiar pattern, with Canada defending deep inside the circle, trying to keep the scoreline to a minimum.
Another strike from Bandurak from a penalty corner made it five, before a second clinical penalty kick from Wallace extended the English lead even further.
At this stage, England withdrew goalkeeper Oli Payne in search of more goals, with the possibility of winning by a big enough margin to top the pool not unrealistic at this stage.
Rushmere entered the act with a low-drag flick and Ward doubled in on the rebound after backup keeper Ethan McTavish made a great initial save.
Any chance of England chasing the required goal difference vanished when a rare Canadian foray at the other end earned Guraliuk his second.
But it was fitting that the prolific Bandurak should have the last word.
The Games’ top scorer scored forcefully from close range after a wonderful team move saw England cut through the Canadian defence.
England may have finished second, but they advance to the semi-finals unbeaten.
After scoring 25 goals in four group stage matches, they will be looking forward to taking on the Kookaburras in Saturday night’s crunch semi-final.
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Looking to watch more international action after the Commonwealth Games? Tickets for the England Women’s Euro qualifiers in Durham from August 25-28 are on sale now.