Current champions and hosts of the tournament New Zealand beat Wales 56-12 at the Women’s Rugby World Cup on Sunday to seal top spot in Group A and a place in the quarter-finals alongside England and Canada.
Prolific winger Portia Woodman and 18-year-old center Sylvia Brunt crossed the ball twice as the five-time world champions ran in 10 tries to win bonus points to delight the crowd at Auckland’s Waitakere Stadium.
Woodman’s combination of power and pace was irresistible at times as she improved her tally to 18 tries in seven career World Cup matches and a total of 36 in 22 Tests.
However, Brunt scored at the second attempt, scoring in the 49th minute at the end of a sweeping 80-metre attack that saw the ball pass through a series of New Zealand hands.
“I’m really proud of our mental strength,” New Zealand captain Ruahei Demont said.
“I’m happy that we had the courage to play in space, no matter where we were on the pitch, and didn’t take the easy way out, making contact all the time.”
With some dominant scrums and strong skating, Wales gave New Zealand a reminder of the potential challenges ahead when they look likely to face European powers England and France later in the tournament.
It was from a line drive – a key weapon for tournament favorites England – that the Welsh scored both of their tries through scrum-half Fionn Lewis and number eight Sioned Harris.
Any hopes of a comeback from Lewis’ try just before half-time were quickly extinguished when Black Ferns lock Maiakawanakaulani Roos and center Teresa Fitzpatrick crossed for tries within four minutes of the restart.
New Zealand number eight Charmaine McMenamin was in the sin bin for the final 10 minutes, but the New Zealanders still added further tries from fly Demant and defender Ruby Tui, the latter almost inevitably set up by another Woodman break.
“It was a tough 80 minutes,” Wales captain Sivan Lillycrop said. “I have to give credit to the Black Ferns. When they throw the ball around, their pick goes, their offloads, their strength, they’re tough.”
While New Zealand can afford to rest some of their players ahead of their final pool match against winless Scotland, Wales now almost certainly need to beat Australia next week to progress to the knockout rounds.