Australia celebrate their narrow win over Wales

Whangarei (New Zealand) (AFP) - New Zealand unleashed another breathless display of attacking rugby on Saturday to overwhelm Scotland 57-0 and ensure they will be top qualifiers for the women’s Rugby World Cup quarter-finals.

The tournament hosts ran in nine tries in Whangarei, providing a contrasting spectacle to the earlier match, in which Australia ground out a 13-7 win over Wales.

Black Ferns fullback Renee Holmes opened the scoring and bagged two tries in a 22-point haul while winger Renee Wickliffe also crossed for a brace.

It took New Zealand’s tally to 26 tries across three pool games and in the process fired another warning shot at pre-tournament favourites England and France.

Needing a four-try bonus point to take top seeding into the knockout phase, they achieved it in the first 17 minutes, before racing to a 45-0 lead at halftime.

Only two tries were scored after the interval against a more robust Scotland, who became the first of the 12 teams in the tournament to be eliminated.

New Zealand coach Wayne Smith chose to rest several of his best players, including star outside backs Portia Woodman and Ruby Tui, leaving him with a plethora of options ahead of next week’s quarter-finals.

His team’s ball-handling and support play has lit up the tournament, having also been a feature of comfortable wins over Australia (41-17) and Wales (56-12).

“Our goal was to start the game with a hiss and a roar, and I think we did that,” fly-half Hazel Tubic said.

“The second half, we probably weren’t as accurate as we’d like to be going into a quarter-final but we’ll take the good things out of it.”

Australia’s tense win over Wales qualifies them for the tournament knockout stage for the first time in 12 years.

Both teams scored one try apiece, but two penalties from fullback Lori Cramer proved decisive as the Wallaroos guaranteed themselves second place in the pool.

Captain Shannon Parry praised her team’s improvement across the tournament, having arrived in New Zealand on a seven-game losing streak.

“This group has come a long way since the start of the year, and I think in those last few minutes everyone really dug in together and I think that’s a testament to the work we have done,” she said.

Wales picked up a bonus point because of the close margin, leaving them with a chance of qualifying for the last eight as one of the best third-placed pool finishers.

Predictions that the match between the teams ranked seventh and eighth in the world would be tight proved accurate.

The Welsh defence was cracked only once, when Australian halfback Iliseva Batibasaga darted through a gap in the fifth minute.

Wales’s response was a close-range try to No.8 Sioned Harries, the 28th of her Test career.

The day’s final pool match is between France and Fiji.