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England blow South Africa away to set up Australia quarter-final

By PA
Rosie Galligan of England scores a try during the Pool C Rugby World Cup 2021 match between England and South Africa at Waitakere Stadium on October 23, 2022 in Auckland, New Zealand.

Rosie Galligan and Connie Powell ran in hat-tricks as England secured top spot in their World Cup pool with a crushing 75-0 victory over South Africa.

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With Lionesses manager Sarina Wiegman watching from the stands in Waitakere, second row Galligan and hooker Powell led a 13-try victory that sets up a last-eight appointment Australia.

Galligan would have finished with a fourth try had she not failed to ground the ball properly when over the line in the closing stages, but it was a rare error by England, who saw back rows Sadia Kabeya and Poppy Cleall touch down twice each.

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Hat-trick hero Rosie Galligan on England’s big win over South Africa | Rugby World Cup 2021
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Hat-trick hero Rosie Galligan on England’s big win over South Africa | Rugby World Cup 2021

There was one potential cloud on the horizon, however, as replacement prop Sarah Bern escaped with a yellow card in the final minute for a high tackle in an incident that could interest the citing officer.

England overcame the late withdrawal of prop Vickii Cornborough and centre Emily Scarratt from the bench because of minor injuries to cross five times in the first half alone.

Their driving maul was typically dominant as they raced to a 29-0 interval lead, but they then took advantage of tiring legs from their opponents to cut loose with a high-tempo offloading game.

Flanker Marlie Packer celebrated her first outing as captain by presiding over the Red Roses’ 28th successive Test victory and scoring a try in the second half.

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It was England’s most emphatic victory of the group phase, having swept aside Fiji 84-19 and edged France 13-7, and they enter the knockout phase as Pool C winners, while South Africa’s maiden World Cup is over.

For all their unchallenged progress into the last eight, concern lingers over England’s reliance on their forwards and driving maul and whether they have a ‘plan b’ against top opposition.

Defeat for South Africa also ensured Wales’ progression to the next round, where they will face New Zealand for the second time in the competition.

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