Women's Rugby League World Cup: England secure victory against Papua New Guinea as Burke and Winfield-Hill combine
Leah Burke dived over three times; Vicky Whitfield, Tara-Jane Stanley and Amy Hardcastle also scored; England will face the loser of Australia vs New Zealand in the semi-finals on Monday at the LNER Community Stadium in York
By Megan Wellens
Last Updated: 09/11/22 9:44pm
A hat-trick from Leah Burke helped England secure a bruising 42-4 victory over Papua New Guinea to finish top of Group A at the Rugby League World Cup.
It was a tense opening 20 minutes between the two sides but it was the Orchids who struck first, Martha Molowia finishing off the move down the right-hand side to put her team 4-0 up just four minutes in.
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However, England withstood the onslaught from the Papua New Guinea forwards and found their momentum, Leah Burke, Amy Hardcastle and Tara Jane-Stanley going over to give England a 14-4 lead at the half-time break.
England continued to find their groove in the second half, and successive cross-field kicks from Courtney Winfield-Hill led to Burke's second and third tries, while a huge running effort from Vicky Whitfield added some more vital points as England stood up well to a powerful pack.
Caitlin Beevers and Hardcastle then finished the job late on, Stanley converting to give England a strong 42-4 victory.
England will now face the loser of Australia vs New Zealand in the semi-finals.
Story of the match
Both of these sides meant business in their opening few sets but it was Papua New Guinea who struck first, sending it wide from the dropout for Martha Molowia to go over in the fourth minute and stun England.
Amy Hardcastle, Caitlin Beevers and Jodie Cunningham are amongst those who returned to the squad for the final Group A game against Papua New Guinea after head coach Craig Richards opted to rotate the squad last week.
Papua New Guinea's pack continued to put in some huge hits in the opening 10 minutes, but England finally got a chance as Georgia Roche took control, sending it wide to Beevers to go over in the corner.
However, the Leeds star was judged to have been taken into touch and England had to wait for their first points on the board.
Match Summary: England 42-4 Papua New Guinea
England: Tries- Leah Burke (3), Amy Hardcastle (2), Tara Jane-Stanley, Vicky Whitfield, Caitlin Beevers Conversions- Tara Jane-Stanley (5)
Papua New Guinea: Tries- Martha Molowia
More chances came and were missed, Beevers was held up over the line once again as Roche continued to pull the strings, the running prowess of Fran Goldthorp causing real problems for the Orchids.
Patience proved to be key for England and they finally got on the board after 24 minutes, a perfectly-placed kick from Courtney Winfield-Hill landing right in the arms of Burke on the wing to dive over the whitewash.
With some points on the board, England then really found their groove, Hardcastle going over just four minutes later off a lovely miss pass from Goldthorpe.
Papua New Guinea stood up well defensively in the final quarter but England finally got some more reward for their pressure once again, Tara Jane-Stanley stepping past three to barge her way over, converting her own effort to put her side 14-4 up at half-time.
The second half started in a similar fashion to the first with big hits from both sides but this time it was England who struck first.
After just six minutes, a perfectly-timed Crossfield kick from Winfield-Hill was taken mid-dive in a spectacular piece of play by Burke for her second of the match, increasing England's lead to 20-4.
Five minutes later, Whitfield was finally rewarded for her huge running efforts, barrelling through on a nice line for a try of her own, Stanley converting to make it 26-4.
With Carol Humeu sent to the sin bin in the 62nd minute for a high shot, Winfield-Hill combined with Burke once again, replicating their earlier efforts to move England to 32-4 and give Burke her flying hat-trick.
Beevers and Hardcastle then finished the scoring for their side, Beevers going over in the corner before Hardcastle found space on the other edge, Stanley converting the second effort to seal the 42-4 win.