Women's Rugby World Cup: England 47-26 USA

By James StandleyBBC Sport
Sarah Hunter battles for the ball with Kris Thomas
Captain Sarah Hunter was at the heart of a dominant performance by the England pack
England v USA: World Cup Pool B
England (33) 47
Tries: Scarratt, penalty (7pts), Packer 2, Mclean, Wilson-Hardy, Cockayne Cons: Scarratt 5
USA (7) 26
Tries: Zackary, Emba, Tapper, Thomas Cons: Kelter 3

Champions England will play France in the Women's World Cup semi-finals after a seven-try win over the USA.

Emily Scarratt scored the first try and a penalty try and further scores from Marlie Packer, with a brace, and Katy Mclean saw them lead 33-7 at half-time.

Amy Wilson-Hardy and Amy Cockayne added further tries for England, with Kate Zackary, Cheta Emba and Naya Tapper replying for the USA.

And Kris Thomas scored their fourth try to secure a bonus point.

At the time it looked as though the extra point could be significant, as it took them to 11 points, but with France ending hosts Ireland's World Cup dreams with a 21-5 win, the Eagles would have gone through as the best runner up even without it.

Earlier, New Zealand thumped Canada 48-5 to qualify for the last four as top seeds.

Scarratt rediscovered her kicking form to land five conversions for England, who controlled the first hour before easing off with the game already won.

Bern shines in impressive England pack

England's performance was built around the dominance of their pack.

At the first scrum they shoved the Eagles back at a rate of knots and they also controlled the line-out, frequently stealing USA ball to halt any attacking momentum the Americans tried to generate.

Tight-head Sarah Bern, 20, was in irrepressible form. She was the tip of the spear in the scrum, a real handful with ball in hand - one 50m run was a particular highlight - and put herself about in defence.

With the likes of Packer and Alex Matthews, Bern laid the groundwork for a comprehensive win in what looked, on paper, as though it might have been a tricky encounter.

Precision kicking key for England

With the pack dominant up front, fly-half Mclean was given space and time to control the game, and her pinpoint kicking in the opening quarter was key to getting England off to a flying start.

Her precise grubber kick set up Scarratt for the first try and the fly-half then produced several raking touch finders to pin the USA back in their own 22.

With England dominant at the line-out more tries duly followed from the Red Roses' powerful driving maul, and by half-time the contest was effectively over.

Mclean's varied passing game was a key factor in England's attacking shape, and she added a fine solo try to cap a classy all-round performance.

USA rally in second half

Six teams started the day with a chance of making the last four.

New Zealand put paid to Canada's chances and the USA knew a bonus point could be significant in them making the last four as the best runner-up from the three groups, ahead of either Ireland or France.

The Eagles controlled the last 20 minutes of the game, with their pacy back three of Emba, Tapper and Thomas looking a real threat now they were being supplied with decent possession.

And, with the clock in the red, Thomas' spectacular solo effort brought their fourth try.

In the end France's win over Ireland meant it did not matter, but it confirmed that the USA backs can open up any defence given the chance.

'We had the job done at half-time'

England boss Simon Middleton: "We are really pleased that we are now in a semi-final. We would have preferred to finish the game better than we did but we were absolutely outstanding in the first half, we were clear in thought and our execution was fantastic. We had the job done at half-time.

"USA were outstanding today, we knew they were going to be a threat as they have got some fantastic athletes and if you look at some of the tries they scored, they were very difficult to defend against.

"We have achieved our objective which was to get out of the pool and into a semi-final and we are now looking forward to that challenge."

England: Danielle Waterman; Amy Wilson Hardy, Emily Scarratt, Amber Reed, Kay Wilson; Katy Mclean, Natasha Hunt; Vickii Cornborough, Amy Cokayne, Sarah Bern, Abbie Scott, Tamara Taylor, Alex Matthews, Marlie Packer, Sarah Hunter.

Replacements: Vicky Fleetwood, Rochelle Clark, Justine Lucas, Poppy Cleall, Harriet Millar-Mills, Leanne Riley, Rachael Burford, Megan Jones.

USA: Cheta Emba; Nava Tapper, Nicole Heavierland, Alev Kelter, Kristen Thomas; Kimber Rozier, Deven Owsianv; Catie Benson, Katy Augustyn, Tiffany Faaee (capt), Stacey Bridges, Alvica Washington, Sara Parsons, Kate Zackary, Jordan Gray.

Replacements: Samantha Pankev, Hope Rogers, Nick James, Abby Gustaitis, Kristine Sommer, Kayla Canett-Oca, Sylvia Braaten, Jess Wooden.

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