IFAF WWC: Great Britain stages historic upset, knocks off Team Canada on last second TD to reach gold medal final

Team Great Britain staged the biggest upset in the history of the IFAF Women’s World Championship, beating Team Canada 20-13 on a last second touchdown to set up a gold medal final against the United States.

The only team to have ever defeated the Canadians in IFAF WWC play before this was Team USA. 

This game was yet more evidence that the world of women’s American football is becoming more competitive. Canada has been runners-up to Team USA in all
of the previous three WWCs. Team Great Britain put an end to that streak, defeating Canada by seven points in a game that saw both teams with chances for victory. The GB Lions had the last chance, and they made the most of it.

Team Canada opened the scoring when running back Hanna Mcewen scored on a one yard run with 6:05 left in the first quarter. Kicker Kristie Elliot added the extra point to give Canada the early lead. Team Great Britain came back with 11:37 in the second after defensive back Lucy Peaty intercepted Canadian quarterback Maude Lacasse and returned it 28 yards for the score. Samantha Read’s extra point attempt failed, so Canada maintained their lead 7-6. With two seconds left in the half, though, and the ball on the Canadian two yard line, Team Great Britain opted for the touchdown instead of a field goal. Quarterback Sydney Green lined up alone in the backfield but instead of throwing, she sprinted around the end and into the end zone for the score. Read added the PAT and the British went into halftime with a stunning 13-7 lead.

Team Great Britain QB Ruth Matta Photo: Jari Turunen

In the earlier game, Team USA also went into halftime trailing Finland, but came out to dominate the second half. It seemed that Canada was set to follow that script, when they took less than three minutes to drive 59 yards on five plays to score. Running back Sarah Wright took the ball in from one yard out, but Elliot’s attempt to salvage a broken PAT attempt failed, so the score was tied 13-13.

For the rest of the half, both teams threatened to score, but ultimately stalled out or traded interceptions.

As in the first half, Team Great Britain waited until almost no time remained. With only two seconds left and the ball on Canada’s 10 yard line head coach Chris Stone gambled. Green took the snap, stepped back and heaved a fade pass to the right corner of the end zone to running back Siobhan Walker who came down with the ball. Read added the PAT, and Britain had accomplished the upset 20-13.

Green completed 18 of 28 passes for 140 yards and the touchdown to Walker. She also ran for 15 yards on five carries but threw three interceptions. Running back Ruth Matta was targeted by the Canadian defense and only managed 29 yards on 17 carries. Walker did double duty, catching five passes for 34 yards and the touchdown while also rushing for 77 yards. Wide receiver Oli Davis caught three passes for 30 yards and ran the ball once for 14 yards.

Defensive back Phoebe Schecter had 9.5 tackles and an interception. Lucy Peaty had 4.5 tackles and also had an interception that led to the final touchdown. Defensive linemen Victoria Ware and Delta Npuna, defensive backs Emily Mullen and Harley-May Lynch, and linebackers Summer Rivers and Rachael Moody all had tackles for losses. Moody, Npuna, and Lynch also had sacks.

For Canada, Lacasse completed 10 of 20 passes for 79 yards but had two picked off. Running back Casey McCombs ran for 70 yards on eight carries, and Kendra Nash added 28 yards on four carries. Laurence Pontbriand caught five passes for 43 yards.

Emilie P.Belanger led the way on defense for Team Canada with 9.5 tackles, and Harmine Leo had seven, including a tackle for loss. Defensive linewomen Nura Muhindo, Joanie Duchesneau, Danaye Holynski, and Arden Kliewer, and linebacker Emmarae Dale had tackles for losses. Holynski and Brigitte O’Driscoll also had sacks. Leo had two interceptions, and Alexandra Ondo intercepted Green once.

Schecter was selected Team Great Britain Game MVP, and Leo was the Team Canada Game MVP.

Team Canada HC Ryan Clutterbuck.

“Obviously disappointed with the outcome. But very pleased with our team’s effort. I thought it was a great game on both sides. I’m just proud of both teams. Ours in particular. Proud of ours, and happy for Great Britain.”

Team Great Britain HC Chris Stone:

“If I’m being honest, it’s still not quite sunk in yet. It’s been a pretty emotional few days for us. For so long, we had circled that date on Saturday to play, and when that happened it sort of refocusing the team and getting it back on there. So there’s been a lot of emotion on the team, and I think finally just to be able to get it on the field and sort of let it out on the field was much needed.”

On the down-to-the-wire finish, Stone was succinct:

“It was a great game all around. It came down to the last second. I think I’m going to end up with a lot of gray hairs at the end of this tournament.”

Team Great Britain’s victory over Team Canada represents a significant shift in the world of women’s American football. Canada had perennially finished second to the United States, and most pundits expected the same this year. As with Team Finland, Great Britain has no doubt benefited from the increasingly tough competition in Europe. The Europeans have had chances to play as a unit against high level competition in the interim between WWCs, while the Canadian women have played for separate teams.

Team Canada will face Team Finland in the bronze medal match at 16:30 local time on Sunday. Team Great Britain will take on Team USA in the gold medal game at 19:30. Watch both games on AFI.

Russ Crawford is an Associate Professor of History at Ohio Northern University in Ada, OH. He has published three books: Women’s American Football: Breaking Barriers On and Off the Field (2022), Le Football: The History of American Football in