Hat-trick hero Amy Hardcastle hailed the Headingley atmosphere as England got their women’s Rugby League World Cup campaign off to a dominant start with a 72-4 win over Brazil.
Hundreds of schoolchildren swelled an impressive Tuesday afternoon crowd of 8,621 – comfortably the biggest for a women’s rugby league game in the northern hemisphere – and saw the hosts run in 14 tries to the backdrop of a six-piece samba band on the South Stand terrace.
And whilst the youthful crowd celebrated England’s comprehensive victory, they also witnessed a bit of unlikely World Cup history when Natalia Momberg crossed for the Amazonas’ first ever try in the tournament on the hour mark.
Amy Hardcastle praises ‘best’ crowd at Headingley
“It was overwhelming and there was a feeling of pride with everybody here and so many people coming down here and supporting us,” said St Helens centre Hardcastle, who is appearing in her third World Cup having made her debut in 2013.
“It was one of the best crowds I have ever played in front of and it felt like we had the whole of England behind us, it was fantastic. You are always going to start with a few nerves and it was a great opportunity to shake them off.”
England led 34-0 at half-time and came agonisingly close to eclipsing their previous record win of 72-0 against Russia in the 2008 World Cup.
As the Brazilians, playing only their third international fixture, inevitably tired, both Hardcastle and Courtney Winfield-Hill completed their hat-tricks while there were also tries from Caitlin Beevers, Grace Field, Fran Goldthorpe, Tara Jones, Leah Burke, Olivia Wood and a brace from Tara-Jane Stanley, who added 16 points with the boot.
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In the second game of the opening day, Papua New Guinea Orchids claimed a 34-12 victory over Canada Ravens.
The Orchids ran in seven tries, including a double for Martha Molowia in the World Cup win. Shellie Long, Belinda Gwasamun, Anika Butler, Essay Banu and Ua Ravu also scoring at Headingley Stadium.
On Wednesday, Kiwi Ferns face France Women and Australian Jillaroos play Cook Islands Women in a double-header at York’s LNER Community Stadium.
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