England defeat South Africa and sign the quarter-finals of the World Cup against Australia

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England’s Red Roses made it to the World Cup quarter-finals with a 13-goal scrapping of South Africa, scoring a 75-0 win that extends their unbeaten streak to 28 games. Triplets from Rosie Galligan in the second row and hooker Connie Powell underlined a show dominated by the English group as their set-kicks and maul reduced the Springboks to rubble.

All but one try was recorded by the forwards, a shot in the 64th minute by Abby Dow who was impressive with the ball she had on the right wing. Poppy Cleall and Sadia Kabeya both scored twice with Shaunagh Brown and captain Marlie Packer scoring as well. It is significant, however, that the player of the match was assigned to Tatyana Heard in the center. She led strongly and dictated the pace of the game.

Related: ‘I’m back. I proved people wrong ‘: Briton Rosie Galligan on her long way to the Rugby World Cup

Simon Middleton, the England manager, will have to make a tough decision in midfield ahead of the quarter-final match against Australia next Sunday. Middleton was upbeat in his post-match interview, calling the media reaction “ridiculous” after his side’s 13-7 win over France. England struggled to take down a stubborn defense last week. They had no similar problems in the last group match.

It was a bumpy start, however, which was understandable given the 15 changes made on Matchday 23. Routine error handling stifled their attack, so England went back to a simple plan of slipping into the corner and keeping it with the forwards. Galligan opened the scoring after securing a lineout and scoring from a maul in six minutes. South Africa continued to take out penalties at the breakdown and had dropped to 14 when Catha Jacobs was sent off for a dangerous tackle.

With one more body in the pack, England won three scrum penalties in 10 minutes. They regularly fumbled with the ball, but when they held it tightly they were dangerous. Cleall, Galligan, Brown and Powell all scored from close range before the time was up. “I like to look back and see my prostitute score a try,” said Cleall following a question about the aesthetics of a spinning mace.

England emerged from the tunnel and found its groove. Less than a minute into the second half Powell was over again. This seemed to encourage the Red Roses, who began to give the ball some air. Jess Breach had a rare gallop to the left which gave a semblance of backline cohesion, but the ball was knocked back into contact.

Marlie Packer, who captained England for the first time, runs into her goal. Photography: Andrew Cornaga / AAP

Things finally jumped at minute 51 with Packer completing a smart move that saw her play a clear give and go with Cleall from a lineout. Right after that Galligan had the third of him with Heard straightening up and dumped in the tackle from the back of a Dow spell that created space in the lower right.

By this time the South Africans were exhausted. They defended as best they could, but it was like throwing a fish in a barrel for the British, who seemed to score with every attack. Three attempts were recorded in the space of four minutes past the hour. It all involved quick passes and strong leads to see Cleall, Kabeya and Dow go further. Heard was instrumental in everyone.

“I loved it,” Heard said of his award-winning performance. “It’s so nice to have the ball up front. Our forwards were really dominant and then giving them space to play was fantastic. I just wanted to give my best ”.

Related: Wallaroos overtakes Wales to book a place in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals

Helena Rowland will likely 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 with Rowland igniting a move from deep. Galligan could have had a fourth but knocked over the line.

The way World Cup winners Nolie Waterman and Maggie Alphonsi spoke in the post-match analysis on ITV, it could have been assumed that England were close to defeat or had shown a boring performance. This is a symptom of the standards the team has set over the past four years. Every successful or misplaced passage is a surprise. Anything other than a flawless presentation of their skills is considered an aberration.

But a resounding victory combined with a clean sheet serves as a perfect springboard for the round of 16. England will face tougher trials, but their quest for World Cup glory remains on track.

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