England maintained their 100 per cent record at the Women’s Rugby World Cup after scoring 10 tries for the second match in succession, securing a 56-13 victory over Italy to set-up a table-topping shootout with the United States next week.
Emily Scarratt, the world class centre leading the side in the absence of captain Sarah Hunter, led the way with two tries along with wing Lydia Thompson and full-back Danielle Waterman. Alex Matthews and Amy Cokayne helped establish a strong lead with tries before half-time, with Tamara Taylor and Amy Wilson-Hardy rounding out the rout.
Italy scored two tries in return and briefly made the match a contest when wing Maria Magatti crossed to make the score 12-8, but by the time No 8 Elisa Giordano powered over, England were 34-13 ahead and well on their way to a second bonus-point victory of the World Cup.
“Credit to Italy, you give them any chance on the ball and they are going to ask questions of you and I thought we dealt with things really well today,” praised head coach Simon Middleton, whose England side went into the tournament as defending world champions and favourites to retain their crown. “To put 50 odd points on the board, it’s a great result for us.
“We have trained together for a long time and we are really comfortable about our combinations. We have played two games with a lot of ball in play and it’s how we want to play.
“I was really pleased with our defence, there was a lot of intensity about us today and we really focussed hard, our attitude was outstanding.”
However, while England were happy to cross the half-century mark for the second consecutive match, their main rivals New Zealand racked up 19 tries in their own as they thrashed Hong Kong 121-0 – eight of which were scored by wing Portia Woodman.
The result falls short of the World Cup record, which is held by the Black Ferns through their 134-6 demolition of Germany in 1998, but it sends out a fierce warning to England with the two on course to meet in the final should they negotiate their final pool games and come through next week’s semi-finals.
Woodman, who crossed the whitewash six times in the first half, is now the tournament’s top try score ahead of Canada’s Magali Harvey and England’s Kay Wilson, while the victory was completed by two-try-scored Theresa Fitzpatrick, Carla Hohepa, Charmaine McMenamin, Chelsea Alley, Hazel Tubic, Sosoli Talawadua, Lesley Ketu, Kelly Brazier and Stacey Waaka.
Ireland snuck a second narrow victory in as many matches to keep their hopes of a semi-final place alive after beating Japan 24-14, just four days after edging past Australia by three points. Wales meanwhile saw their hopes of reaching the last-four end after suffering a 15-0 defeat by Canada, with the Canadians still yet to concede a point since arriving in Ireland.