England secure group top spot as they blow Orchids away

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England Women v Papua New Guinea Women

England have run out 42-4 victors over Papua New Guinea in Leeds this morning.

The final clash in group A had first spot on the line, and England have made a statement in claiming it. The win means that England will meet the loser of the Australia vs New Zealand showdown in their semi-final. Papua New Guinea's tournament is still alive, although they now face a tougher route to the cup.

The game started poorly for England, with Emily Rudge dropping the ball cold on the first play of the match. Papua New Guinea then forced a dropout, and continued to apply pressure with Elsie Albert almost crashing over next to the uprights. The Orchids opened the scoring in the 4th minute through Martha Molowia on the left edge, but the unsuccessful conversion attempt saw the scoreline remain 4-0.

Following the try, England began to get going. With some possession to work with, they started winning the forward battle in the middle. As a result, attacking field position was created, but they couldn't turn opportunities into points. Referee Benjamin Casty went upstairs to check whether Caitlin Beevers got the ball down for her side, but the winger had gone into touch.

Only three minutes later Beevers would go into touch again, this time off an ill-advised shortside play. England kept turning the ball over, with passes just going behind players and small errors costing them opportunities. In the 24th minute, Beevers got yet another chance, but this time she was held up by some strong PNG defence.

Leah Burke finally opened the English account in the 24th minute off an early kick from her halfback, Courtney Winfield-Hill. Papua New Guinea's defensive resolve seemed to weaken slightly following this, and so it was only a few minutes later that Amy Hardcastle crossed to bring the scoreline to 8-4. 

Some poor discipline late in the first half from the Orchids invited England back on the attack, and it was Tara Stanley who increased her team's lead just before half-time. Leading 14-4 at the break, England had wrestled their way on top despite some disappointing attacking play. 

Back to back penalties gave England early attacking ball in the second half, with Leah Burke crossing for her second of the game in the 46th minute. Five minutes later, Vicky Whitfield crossed the stripe to extend the English lead to 22 points. Whitfield was one of the players of the match for England, making several significant carries and line-breaks.

A high tackle sin bin in the 64th minute for PNG's Carol Humeu gave Leah Burke the opportunity to score her hat-trick try. The 4-pointer came once again from a crossfield kick by her halfback, Courtney Winfield-Hill. With 13 minutes on the clock, the scoreline was threatening to get out of hand with the Orchids down to twelve players.

Two late tries for England rounded out the match, with Caitlin Beevers crossing for her much awaited first try of the game, and Amy Hardcastle crossing for her second. The successful conversion from Tara Stanley on the stroke of full time capped off a comfortable 42-4 win for the English, but they have work to do before next week's semi-final.

Papua New Guinea need to regroup and refocus ahead of their own impending semi-final clash. They showed patches of great resolve and teamwork, but in the end it was fatigue that wore them down.

England Women 42 - Papua New Guinea Women 4

Venue: Headingley Stadium, Leeds
Crowd: 5471
Halftime Score: England Women 14 Papua New Guinea Women 4

LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Vicky Whitfield
2 points - Jodie Cunningham
1 points - Courtney Winfield-Hill

Tries: Leah Burke (3), Tara Stanley, Amy Hardcastle (2), Vicky Whitfield, Caitlin Beevers
Conversions: Tara Stanley (5/8)

Tries: Martha Molowia
Conversions: Emily Veivers (0/1)

See how it happened in our Match Centre