Australia celebrate their narrow win over Wales
Whangarei (New Zealand) (AFP) - New Zealand and France warmed up for the women’s Rugby World Cup with emphatic wins in Whangarei on Saturday while Australia and Wales did enough to also reach the knockout phase.
Hosts New Zealand unleashed another breathless display of attacking rugby to overwhelm Scotland 57-0 and ensure they will be top qualifiers at the end of pool play on Sunday.
France matched that defensive effort, keeping Fiji scoreless in a classy 44-0 win.
The Fijians joined Scotland as the first of the 12 teams to be eliminated from the tournament.
Earlier, Australia’s tense 13-7 win over Wales resulted in both teams booking quarter-final berths.
It was a second win for the Wallaroos, leaving them second behind Pool A winners New Zealand, while Wales’ bonus point means they are guaranteed to advance as one of the two best third-placed pool finishers.
The makeup of the quarter-finals will be determined after group play finishes in Auckland on Sunday.
New Zealand fired another warning shot at pre-tournament favourites England and France, tallying 26 tries through their three games after notching another nine against the Scots.
Ball-handling and support play was again a feature for the Black Ferns, who led 45-0 at halftime before losing some momentum after the interval.
Fullback Renee Holmes opened the scoring and bagged two tries in a 22-point haul while winger Renee Wickliffe also crossed for a brace.
“Our goal was to start the game with a hiss and a roar, and I think we did that,” fly-half Hazel Tubic said.
“The second half, we probably weren’t as accurate as we’d like to be going into a quarter-final but we’ll take the good things out of it.”
Five of France’s seven tries were scored by outside backs, including a double to centre Maelle Filopon as they took the lead in Pool C.
However, unbeaten England will reclaim top spot if they beat South Africa on Sunday.
French prop Coco Lindelauf said they had a point to prove following last week’s 13-7 loss to the English.
“It was very important for us to show what we can produce. Last week we didn’t have much of the ball,” Lindelauf said.
“Now we need to work hard again for the quarter-finals.”
Australia and Wales have both reached the knockout stage for just the second time in nine editions of the global tournament.
Both teams scored one try apiece, but penalties from fullback Lori Cramer at the end of each half proved decisive.
The Welsh defence was cracked when Australian halfback Iliseva Batibasaga darted through a gap in the fifth minute.
Wales’s response was a close-range try to No.8 Sioned Harries, the 28th of her Test career.
Australian captain Shannon Parry praised her team’s improvement across the tournament, having arrived in New Zealand on a seven-game losing streak.
“This group has come a long way since the start of the year, and I think in those last few minutes everyone really dug in together and I think that’s a testament to the work we have done,” she said.