Reigning champions and tournament hosts New Zealand overwhelmed Wales 56-12 at the women’s Rugby World Cup on Sunday to lock up the top spot in Pool A and a place in the quarter-finals along with England and Canada.
Prolific winger Portia Woodman and 18-year-old centre Sylvia Brunt both crossed twice as the five-times world champions ran in 10 tries in a bonus point win to delight the crowd at the Waitakere Stadium in the suburbs of Auckland.
Woodman’s combination of power and pace was all but irresistible at times as she improved her tally to 18 tries in seven career World Cup matches and her overall mark to 36 in 22 tests.
Brunt scored the pick of the tries with her second effort, however, crossing in the 49th minute at the end of a sweeping 80-metre attack in which the ball passed through a series of New Zealand hands.
“I’m really proud of our mental strength,” said New Zealand captain Ruahei Demant.
“I’m happy that we had the courage to play into space regardless of where we were on the field and didn’t take the easy road by taking contact all the time.”
With some dominant scrums and powerful rolling mauls, Wales gave New Zealand a reminder of potential challenges ahead if, as looks likely, they meet European powers England and France later in the tournament.
It was from the lineout drive, a major weapon for tournament favourites England, that the Welsh scored both of their tries through scrumhalf Ffion Lewis and number eight Sioned Harries.
Any hopes of a comeback after Lewis’s try just before halftime were quickly extinguished, though, when Black Ferns lock Maiakawanakaulani Roos and centre Theresa Fitzpatrick crossed for tries in the four minutes after the restart.
New Zealand number eight Charmaine McMenamin was in the sin bin for the last 10 minutes but the New Zealanders still added further tries from flyhalf Demant and fullback Ruby Tui, the latter set up almost inevitably by another Woodman break.
“It was a brutal 80 minutes,” said Wales skipper Siwan Lillicrap.
“I’ve got to credit the Black Ferns. When they throw the ball around, their pick-and goes, their offloads, their strength, they are brutal.”
While New Zealand can afford to rest some of their players for their final pool match against winless Scotland, Wales now almost certainly need to beat Australia next week to reach the knockout rounds.