England beat South Africa to seal a World Cup quarter-final against Australia

Last Updated on October 23, 2022 by

England’s Red Roses steamrolled into the World Cup quarter-finals with a 13-try demolition of South Africa, claiming a 75-0 victory that extends their unbeaten run to 28 matches. Hat-tricks from second row Rosie Galligan and hooker Connie Powell underlined a display dominated by England’s pack as their set-piece and maul crushed the Springboks.

All but one of the attempts were registered by the forwards, a 64th minute effort from Abby Dow who impressed with her little ball on the right wing. Poppy Cleall and Sadia Kabeya put on a brace each with Shaunagh Brown and captain Marlie Packer also. Tellingly, though, the player of the match was awarded to Tatyana Heard on the inside. She carried with power and dictated the tempo of the game.

Simon Middleton, England’s coach, has a difficult decision to make in midfield ahead of the quarter-final clash with Australia next Sunday. Middleton was bullish in his post-match interview, calling the media reaction following his team’s 13-7 win over France “ridiculous”. Last week England struggled to break down a stubborn defence. They had no such problems in their last group game.

However, it was a disjointed start, which was understandable given the 15 changes on Matchday 23. Handling errors routinely stifled their attack, so England reverted to a simple plan of cornering it and holding it with the forwards. Galligan opened the scoring after securing a lineout and dotting down from a maul inside six minutes. South Africa continued to cough up penalties at the breakdown and were down by 14 when Catha Jacobs was brought up short for a dangerous tackle.

With an extra body in the pack, England won three scrum penalties in 10 minutes. They fumbled the ball regularly, but when they kept it tight they were dangerous. Cleall, Galligan, Brown and Powell all scored from close range before the end of the half. “I like to look behind me and see my hooker score a try,” Cleall said afterwards when asked about the aesthetics of a rolling maul.

England came out of the tunnel and found their groove. Less than a minute into the second half, Powell was over again. That seemed to encourage the Red Roses, who began to give the ball some air. Jess Breach had a rare gallop down the left which gave the impression of unity in the back line, but the ball was once again spilled into contact.

Things finally clicked on 51 minutes with Packer completing a slick move that saw her play a neat give-and-go with Cleall from a lineout. Soon after Galligan had his third with Heard straightening and offloading in the tackle from the back of some magic from Dow creating space down the right.

By this stage the South Africans were exhausted. They defended as best they could, but it was like shooting fish in a barrel for the English, who looked like scoring with every attack. Three tries were scored within four minutes of the hour mark. All involved quick passing and strong carrying to see Cleall, Kabeya and Dow go over. Heard was instrumental in all.

“I loved it,” Heard said of her award-winning performance. “It’s so good to have front football. Our strikers were really dominant and then gave them space to play in, it was great. I just wanted to put my best foot forward.”

Helena Rowland is likely to start at 12 against Australia, but England’s strength in depth is something to behold. They emptied the bench before Powell completed his hat-trick from another maul and Kabeya scored late on with Rowland starting a move from deep. Galligan could have had a fourth, but she knocked on over the line.

As World Cup winners Nolie Waterman and Maggie Alphonsi spoke in the post-match analysis on ITV, you could have assumed England were close to losing or that they put in a dull display. It is a symptom of the standards that the team has set over the past four years. Every knock on or misplaced pass comes as a surprise. Anything other than a flawless presentation of their skills is seen as a deviation.

But a resounding win combined with a clean sheet serves as the perfect springboard for the knockout rounds. England will face sterner tests but their World Cup quest remains on course.