AUCKLAND (AFP) – New Zealand and Canada joined England in guaranteeing themselves berths in the women’s Rugby World Cup quarter-finals with contrasting wins in Auckland yesterday.
Canada used forward power to suffocate Italy 22-12 before tournament hosts New Zealand unleashed a high-octane brand in a 56-12 demolition of Wales.
The two performances came a day after England used pressure rugby to beat stubborn fourth seeds France 13-7 as the three top-ranked nations rose to the top of their pools through two rounds of matches.
The weekend ended on a thrilling note when Fiji scored a try in the final minute to upset South Africa 21-17 to secure their first win in tournament history.
Fly-half Libbie Janse van Rensburg put South Africa three points ahead with a penalty four minutes from the end but Fiji snatched victory with a try to No 8 Karalaina Naisewa, prompting colourful celebrations.
While both of those teams can still secure a quarter-final berth in next week’s last round of pool play, England, New Zealand and Canada have already booked tickets to the knockout phase with 100 per cent records.
New Zealand’s Black Ferns turned on an attacking masterclass in their 10-try display.
Playing with a willingness to offload passes rather than kick, the Black Ferns had too much speed and skill for a Welsh side who had beaten Scotland 18-15 last week.
There were two tries each for 18-year-old centre Sylvia Brunt and prolific wing Portia Woodman, who lifted her extraordinary career tally to 36 tries in 22 Tests.
New Zealand captain Ruahei Demant said her side had improved from last week’s tournament-opening 41-7 defeat of Australia.
“I’m proud of the way the team bounced back from last week,” said Demant, who was among the try-scorers and made eight offloads.