Rugby World Cup: Black Ferns complete unbeaten pool schedule with demolition of Scotland

Defending champions New Zealand have successfully negotiated Rugby World Cup pool play unbeaten, after dispatching hapless Scotland 57-0 at Whangārei.

The Black Ferns started strongly and maintained a point a minute through the opening half, before falling behind the scoreboard over a more evenly contested second 40 minutes, scoring just 12 points.

Fullback Renee Holmes and wing Rene Wickliffe scored try doubles, as the NZ women crossed the chalk nine times, with Holmes adding six conversions to pad her scoring contribution.

Amy Rule in action for the Black Ferns
Amy Rule in action for the Black Ferns. Photo credit: Photosport

Holmes opened the scoring in the fifth minute, taking advantage of an overlap, and loomed outside replacement midfielder Syliva Brunt to close the scoring with her second try over the dying moments.

In between, she pushed her claims for a spot in the starting XV during the knockout stages, presenting a selection challenge for the Ferns coaching staff, who may have been leaning towards a back three of Ruby Tui, Portia Woodman and Ayesha Leti-I'iga.

But Wickliffe probably broke the game open late in the first half, when she scored her brace in quick succession. Her first was marginal, coming off a pass from first-five Hazel Tubic that appeared to drift forward, but survived replay scrutiny.

The second was the result of slick ball movement along the backline, presenting her with a straightforward run to the corner, as the scoreline swelled to 45-0 at the break.

One major concern from previous outings was discipline and those ghosts returned to haunt the Black Ferns after the restart, with persistent infringing drawing a caution from French referee Aurelle Groizeleau and eventually a yellow card for prop Tanya Kalounivale.

Coach Wayne Smith was using this encounter to finalise his best combination moving forward and midfielder Theresa Fitzpatrick was another to further her cause with a strong player-of-the-match performance, but the titleholders still haven't produced the perfect product collectively.

"The first half was brilliant, I felt," reflected Smith. "We probably didn't quite nail it in the second half.

"I've said all the way through that selection is not going to be easy. We've got a lot of good players in this team and they showed again today, with a lot of changes, they still played great rugby, particularly in that first half.

"We'll sit down in a couple of days' time and look at what we've got."

The final knockout draw won't be complete until Sunday's three games, but New Zealand look likely to finish as top qualifiers - only Canada can match their three bonus-point wins - with a rematch against Wales a distinct possibility.

New Zealand 57 (Holmes 2, Wickliffe 2, Hirini, Mikaele-Tu'u, Fitzpatrick, Roos & Leti-I'iga tries; Holmes 6 conversions) Scotland 0

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