- England score seven tries in comprehensive defeat of South Africa
- Worcester wing Katherine Merchant bags four tries in Nations Cup win
Photo: Getty Images
England Women cruised past South Africa to register their second successive Nations Cup win of the tournament on Friday night, running out 46-8 winners at Appleby College in Ontario, Canada.
Worcester wing Katherine Merchant ran in an impressive four tries in her first showing in the tournament with Claire Allan, Sophie Hemming and Rowena Burnfield also touching down. Lichfield scrum half Natasha Hunt also kicked three penalties and a conversion in her second ever game for England.
England, who defeated the USA 15-11 on Tuesday, started well and a solid scrum saw lock Jo McGilchrist getting the ball out to Hunt and then Merchant. A good hand off then saw the wing see off South Africa’s last line of defence to score right of the posts. Hunt converted to earn her first international points and hand England a 7-0 lead.
England moved into a 10-0 lead after 15 minutes when South Africa were penalised for killing the ball and Hunt stroked over the penalty minutes before lock Burnfield scored England’s second try.
Following a good chase by Merchant and some great pressure at the breakdown by Allan and Kay Wilson, Burnfield showed some strong running to score from 22 metres out. Hunt this time couldn’t add the extra but had another opportunity at goal with a 23rd minute penalty which she successfully kicked to give England an 18-0 lead.
The Boks had their first chance to put some points on the board with a 27th minute penalty but Zandile Nojoko didn’t make the kick and instead Hunt stroked over her third penalty on the half hour mark.
South Africa made amends though and finally broke England’s dominance with a 34th minute try, chasing down a kick and Nojoko scoring for a soft try. Nojoko didn’t make the conversion but South Africa sustained that pressure going into the break, but some strong defence and hard tackling by England stopped the Boks adding to there so it was at 21-5 at the break.
Photo: Getty Images
South Africa clawed their way back to 21-8 after the restart with a successful Nojoko penalty, but England soon got themselves back on track.
From a good scrum and some good work by the backrow, No. 8 Sarah Hunter got the ball out to Hunt and then Merchant who again showed her impressive pace, running in from just outside the 22 to score her second try.
South Africa kept attacking England’s defence but the Red Roses managed to keep them at bay and instead it was England who increased their lead on the score board. A good catch and drive at the line out saw Hemming find some space to dive for the line and score England’s fourth try to make the score 31-8.
Merchant then secured her hat-trick on 64 minutes after some well worked moves from the backs saw the wing find the space and run in from the half way mark to score.
Substitute and England captain Katy McLean then made a fantastic break through the centre of South Africa’s backs and with Allan in support the Richmond centre took on the ball and ran the length of the pitch to score with relative ease. McLean couldn’t make the conversion but England soon wrapped the match up with Merchant’s fourth and final try on 77 minutes, making the final score 46-8.
England Head Coach Gary Street said: "This was ultimately a pleasing result after taking some time to break down a determined and brave South African defence. We cut down on unforced errors and showed some extremely good and exciting rugby at times.
"Everyone in the squad has now had a start and will take a couple of days off before deciding on our selection for what should be an exciting game against Canada."
Wasps prop Claire Purdy, who captained England for this game, added: "We knew South Africa would challenge our defence and breakdown skills so it was important our communication was effective and we remained focussed on our game plan. We’ve come away with a number of positives but as always we know there is more work to be done. For me it was an honour to lead the squad and an experience I’ll never forget."
England next play hosts Canada on Tuesday, kick off 1130pm BST. Nations Cup match action is available at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/live-rugby
15 Kay Wilson (Richmond), 14 Katherine Merchant (Worcester), 13 Claire Allan (Richmond), 12 Sarah McKenna (Old Albanians), 11 Michaela Staniford (Wasps), 10 Alice Richardson (VC) (Richmond), 9 Natasha Hunt (Lichfield), 1 Claire Purdy (C) (Wasps), 2 Amy Garnett(Saracens), 3 Sophie Hemming (Bristol), 4 Becky Essex (Richmond), 5 Rowena Burnfield (Richmond), 6 Jenny Brightmore (Worcester), 7 Marlie Packer (Bristol), 8 Jo McGilchrist (Wasps).
Replacements: 16 Vicky Fleetwood (Lichfield), 17 Laura Keates (Worcester), 18 Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park), 19 Sarah Hunter (Lichfield), 20 La Toya Mason (Wasps), 21 Katy McLean (Darlington Mowden Park), 22 Danielle Waterman (Worcester)
Tries: Hemming, Burnfield, Allan, Merchant (4)
Penalties: Hunt (3)
Substitutions: Hunter for McGilchrist (8), Keates for Purdy (52), Taylor for Essex (52), Mason for Hunt (55), Waterman for Wilson (55), Fleetwood for Garnett (60), McLean for Richardson (60).
England Nations Cup fixtures and results
August 2: USA v England KO 1130pm, WON 15-11
August 5: South Africa v England KO 1030pm, WON 46-8
August 9: Canada v England KO 1130pm
August 13: Finals Day KO TBC