France crush Fiji to advance to quarters, Australia beat Wales
Oct 22 (Reuters) - France joined Australia in qualifying for the quarter-finals of the women's Rugby World Cup on Saturday, cruising past Fiji 44-0 as hosts New Zealand handed Scotland a 57-0 thrashing.
Two penalties from Lori Cramer earned Australia a hard-fought 13-7 victory over Wales that ensures Jay Tregonning's team finish second in Pool A behind New Zealand, who notched up a third successive bonus point win with their shutout of the Scots.
Australia and France join New Zealand, who have all but locked up a top spot in the quarter-final seedings, as well as England and Canada in booking their places in the knockout round of the competition.
"We're really happy, obviously. We needed a bonus point victory to get that top spot. I don't know who we're playing yet because there are still some more games to come," Black Ferns coach Wayne Smith said.
Wales, led by Ioan Cunningham, could still advance as one of the two best third-placed finishers, depending on the outcome of the remaining group matches.
The Australians took the lead in the fifth minute when Iliseva Batibasaga gathered the ball at the back of a ruck before a dummied pass bought her the space to sprint under the posts to score and Cramer struck a successful conversion.
Wales levelled in the 23rd minute when Sioned Harries touched down after a pick-and-go from close range, and Elinor Snowsill's kick made it over the bar via the inside of the post.
Cramer's sweetly struck penalty on the stroke of halftime gave the Australians a slender advantage at the interval before both teams cancelled each other out throughout the second half.
Wales were given late hope when Australian replacement Kaitlan Leaney was given a yellow card for a dangerous tackle on Alex Callender with 10 minutes remaining, but Cramer's penalty two minutes from time sealed the win.
"Its massive for this group of girls to have come all this way and make it to the quarter-finals. That was the first box we wanted to tick and we made it and now the tournament opens up," said Australia captain Shannon Parry.
The Black Ferns brushed Scotland aside with a devastating first half display, with Renee Holmes notching up 22 points, including two tries and six conversions, as the defending champions ran rampant.
Holmes' first try put New Zealand in front in the second minute and Smith's team were never challenged by a heavily outgunned Scotland side.
Ayesha Leti-l'iga added the second eight minutes later and further tries from Sarah Hirini, Liana Mikaele-Tu'u and Theresa Fitzpatrick opened up a significant gap before Renee Wickliffe scored twice late in the half.
Maiakawanakaulani Roos and Holmes crossed the line in the second half as the defending champions eased to victory.
"Amy Rule and Pip Love up front, Maia Roos and Liana Mikaele Tu'u – they really led that physicality," said New Zealand head coach Wayne Smith. "And everyone chimed in. The backs were brilliant in the first half."
France also eased past Fiji, who are out of contention, as tries by Marine Menager, Melissande Llorens, and Maelle Filopon helped them to a 20-0 lead in the first half.
Thomas Darracq's side scored one more try through Filopon to resume the scoring in the second half while three more tries by Emeline Gros, Emilie Boulard, and Celia Domain helped seal the crushing victory.
"Last week we were really good in defence, but we didn't really get going in attack, so this week we really wanted to put our attack in place and that's what we did. That puts us in a really good place for the quarter-finals," France back row Manae Feleu said.
In Pool B, Japan face Italy and Canada clash with the United States on Sunday while England take on South Africa the same day.
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