The two unbeaten sides in group A of the Womens World Cup met to determine who would finish top of the pile and go on to take on the runners up in Group B in the semi-finals. England have impressed so far in the tournament but so have the women from Papua New Guinea as the two met for the second match of a double header at Emerald Headingley after the stage had been set with an exciting game between the Canada Ravens and Brazil.
Tomorrow night will see Australia and New Zealand play to settle their group, each defending a one-hundred-percent record so far in the competition with the knowledge as to who will face England or PNG depending on the outcome.
England were firm favourites for tonight’s match, handicapped by twenty-two points on the coupon but the Orchids were backing themselves to spring the upset and repeating their victory from 2019 when the won the second of a two-test series in Port Moresby.
It was the Orchids who had the best of the opening minutes and who opened the scoring on three minutes when Lilah Malabag held onto the ball before releasing a terrific pass to Martha Molowia to score in the corner. The Emily Veivers kick wasn´t successful but it was the dream start for the underdogs.
Caitlin Beevers was denied for England on eleven as she was held up over the line. England were growing into the game when Beevers was denied for a second time on fourteen as once again, she was held up over the line again by a tremendous PNG defence.
England were dominating possession with Beevers again denied by the PNG defence on twenty-three and on the next play a cross-field kick from Courtney Winfield-Hill was taken in acres of space by Leah Burke to score from two metres out. The conversion attempt from Stanley went across the face of the goal, the sides tied up at 4-4 with twenty-six on the clock.
Two minutes later and England were in the lead Fran Goldthorpe providing the pass for Amy Hardcastle to canter in and slide over. Stanley hit the near upright with the conversion attempt, but the favourites were hitting their stride.
On thirty-seven Tara Stanley bounced over the line with three tacklers attached, referee Casty sending the decision up as a TRY and video referee Childs agreeing. Stanley added the conversion from the touchline for a 14-4 lead at the interval. England had ridden the storm and would be looking for a big increase in the lead in the second half.
A superb fourth try for England, Burke once again on the end of a Winfield-Hill pinpoint kick to the corner, the winger diving to take the kick and grounding in one action. Stanley was on target with the conversion for 20-4.
Vicky Whitfield ran rings around the PNG defence as she stepped off both feet off a Winfield-Hill pass to jink her way over from twenty metres out. Stanley was on target with the conversion, England safe at the top of the group and full of confidence.
Carol Humeu was sin-binned on sixty-two for a high tackle, compounding PNG´s problems.
Leah Burke completed her hat-trick with a carbon copy try, a Winfield-Hill kick to the corner taken again by the diving winger to ground before sliding dead in goal. Stanley hit the target again for 32-4 and it was starting to look ugly for the Orchids.
With five minutes remaining Caitlin Beevers was on hand to take the final pass as the ball was moved to the right wing, diving for the line to avoid the tackle. Stanley´s kick dropped just short of the crossbar.
Goldthorpe went close on seventy-seven and on the next play the ball was moved left to exploit the tiring PNG defence with Hardcastle going over for her second of the night. Stanley kicked her fifth goal of the night for a final score of 42-4.
England finish top of the group, unbeaten in the group stages, and will now face the losers of tomorrows Australia v. New Zealand clash in the semi-finals with their minds focussed on Old Trafford in just under a fortnights time. It was a brave effort for PNG and they will have a chance to redeem themselves in their own semi-final next week, and who knows, they might get another chance to take down England in the World Cup Final.
England: Goldthorp, Beevers (T), Stanley (T, 5G), Hardcastle (2T), Burke (3T), Roche, Winfield-Hill, Hoyle, Jones, Wood, Dodd, Rudge, Cunningham. Subs: Whitfield (T), Bennett, Travis, Field.
Papua New Guinea: Molowia (T), Alu, Long, Gwasamun, Butler, Koroi, Malabag, Albert, Joe, Kaupa, Veivers, Banu, Reeves. Subs: Ravu, Humeu (SB on 62), John, De La Cruz.
Score Progression: 0-4, 4-4, 8-4, 12-4, 14-4 : HT : 18-4, 20-4, 24-4, 26-4, (SB), 30-4, 32-4, 36-4, 40-4, 42-4 : FT .
Lead Exchanges: PNG – Square – England.
Referee: Benjamin Casty.
Attendance: 5,471 at the Emerald Headingley Stadium, Leeds. (Double Header)