England dominate Papua New Guinea to seal top spot in Rugby League World Cup group

England 42-4 Papua New Guinea: It took 25 minutes for the hosts to make thr breakthrough but once they did they took the game away from their battling opponents

Mark Staniforth
Wednesday 09 November 2022 23:31 GMT
England's Tara-Jane Stanley dives in to score a try
England's Tara-Jane Stanley dives in to score a try (PA)

Leah Burke scored a hat-trick as England emerged bruised but unbowed from their toughest test of the women’s Rugby League World Cup so far with a 42-4 win over Papua New Guinea at Headingley.

Their hard-earned victory ensures England finish on top of Group A and will more than likely avoid a semi-final against red-hot favourites Australia, who face New Zealand in their concluding Group B clash on Thursday.

All three of Burke’s tries were cued up by the brilliant kicking of influential half-back Courtney Winfield-Hill, while a brace from Amy Hardcastle and further scores from Vicky Whitfield, Caitlin Beevers and Tara-Jane Stanley - who also kicked five conversions - saw the hosts build on a slender interval lead.

But a ripe black eye sported by forward Jodie Cunningham served as a timely reminder that despite the one-sided look of the final score, England had faced the crunching resistance they craved from the Orchids, who have also confirmed their semi-final place.

England coach Craig Richards was eager for a challenge after watching his side score 126 points in their opening two matches against Brazil and Canada, and it was duly provided by opponents who had won the last meeting between the two sides in Port Moresby in 2019.

The hosts made a nightmare start when Shona Hoyle knocked on inside the opening 30 seconds and after a sustained spell of pressure, Papua New Guinea swung the ball out wide where Martha Molowia crossed in the corner.

Despite the Orchids’ resolute defence, led by their full-time NRL star and captain Elsie Albert, England grafted away inside their opponents’ half with Beevers twice held up over the line.

It took 25 minutes of shudderingly impressive rugby before England could make a breakthrough, a lofted kick from Winfield-Hill finding Burke in space on the wing to cross for her fourth try of the tournament.

Hardcastle scored England’s second after Whitfield shrugged off three challenges to make inroads down the middle, and the hosts capitalised on creeping indiscipline from their opponents when Hollie Dodd fed Stanley who made it three before the break.

Stanley’s first successful conversion gave her team a 10-point half-time cushion and lingering fears of a Papua New Guinea comeback were effectively averted when another precise kick from Winfield-Hill sent Burke over for a carbon copy second.

The influential half-back also played a part in setting up the impressive Whitfield who cut through the opponents’ line to score England’s fifth, Stanley’s third conversion extending their lead to 26-4.

Burke latched onto another kick from Winfield-Hill as England continued to plunder the left flank and increase their lead, before Beevers finally wriggled over for the try her persistence deserved.

Hardcastle wrapped up the scoring with England’s eighth try after a typically free-ranging run from Fran Goldthorpe, bringing an impressive end to a strong performance from the hosts with one eye on the sterner tests to come.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in