England maintained their 100 per cent record at the Women’s Rugby World Cup, but were made to overcome some early Spanish resistance before ultimately prevailing in their Pool A game at Marcoussis in France.
The Spanish proved far tougher opponents than the Samoan side demolished by England 65-3 on Friday, but Gary Street’s side were still able to score six tries to one, with Kay Wilson, Danielle Waterman, Laura Keates, Claire Allan and Marlie Packer twice all crossing the line and Emily Scarratt adding 15 points with the boot.
The England captain, Sarah Hunter, said: “It was a tough game, we knew that Spain would come at us and cause us problems. It was a case of playing in the right areas and hoping we would get the rewards, and eventually they came.
“We were made to fight for every point in the baking heat, but we stuck to our game plan and there were some fantastic team tries.”
After a tight opening to the game England broke the deadlock when a deft grubber from fly-half Ceri Large bounced perfectly for Wilson to jump on for her third try of the tournament. Spain continued to press, but some nimble footwork from Waterman let her cross the line for her 35th international try.
England went into the break 17-0 up, and started the second half with real pace. Keates rumbled over to score after strong work from the pack, then Allan was on hand to finish off a smart team move across the line for 31-0 and the bonus point.
Scarratt converted both with ease and had her sixth successful kick after Packer, making her first World Cup start, barged her way over.
With just over 10 minutes to play Spain were rewarded with their first try after a spell of pressure on England’s line, Marina Bravo diving over. But it was England who had the final say as Packer scored her second try after more strong work from the pack.
Street said: “We had a plan going into these first two games: we wanted to give everyone a chance and we wanted to see all 26 players in action.” Street paid special tribute to his in-form full-back Scarratt, adding: “It’s great to have a kicking option like Emily Scarratt. I’ve seen a lot of a kicking performances from women over the years, but that was one of the best, if not the best, I’ve ever seen.”
Ireland caused a huge upset as they beat New Zealand 17-14 in Pool B. The Black Ferns have won the last four tournaments and had not lost a World Cup game since a defeat to the United States in the semi-finals in 1991.
They began well and led 8-0 courtesy of a Kelly Brazier penalty and Selica Winiata’s try but Heather O’Brien’s score, which was then converted by Niamh Briggs, cut the deficit to one point at the break.
Brazier’s second penalty extended New Zealand’s lead but when Alison Miller went over with Briggs again adding the extras, it was the Irish who led by three. Another Brazier penalty levelled the scores but Briggs slotted one of her own with 10 minutes remaining and Ireland held on for a famous victory.
Wales’ miserable tournament continued as their World Cup hopes ended with 25-3 defeat at the hands of Australia.