England open World Cup campaign with emphatic victory over Brazil

Amy Hardcastle and Courtney Winfield-Hill both scored hat-tricks as England kicked off their women’s Rugby League World Cup campaign by running in 14 tries in a convincing 72-4 win over Brazil at Headingley.

The hosts came close to eclipsing their record 72-0 win over Russia in 2008 but were denied by a gutsy display from the Amazonas culminating in a richly deserved try from Natalia Momberg on the hour mark.

Tara-Jane Stanley scored two tries and kicked eight conversions to take her personal haul to 24 points, while Francesca Goldthorp, Caitlin Beevers, Leah Burke, Tara Jones, Olivia Wood and Grace Field also crossed for England.

England were efficient in executing their game plan and could afford to get some sloppiness out of their system with much sterner tests still to come in the tournament.

Yet the Amazonas, having played the sum total of two previous international matches, tested them at times through a rugged front row encapsulated by their dual international prop Franciny Amaral.

A healthy Headingley crowd, swollen by hundreds of local schoolchildren and backed by an inevitable six-piece samba band on the South Stand terrace, made it a carnival occasion to start what England hope is their path to a maiden World Cup triumph.

It took England just 94 seconds to get off the mark when they pounced on a knock-on by Brazil’s Barbara Leal and spread the ball left where Beevers crossed in the corner.

Stanley grabbed the second before a brilliant solo try from player of the match Winfield-Hill, who jinked through the Brazilian backs to bring up double figures.

Leticia Medeiros came agonisingly close to opening Brazil’s account but was held up over the line, as Winfield-Hill added England’s fourth before Field, Hardcastle and Stanley made it 34-0 at the break.

Leeds 19-year-old Goldthorp, preferred to Stanley at full-back, pounced on a fumble by Amanda Welter to open England’s account in the second half, and Hardcastle crossed again before Momberg’s try sparked celebrations in the Brazilian ranks.

As the visitors inevitably tired, England came into their own with hooker Jones going over and both Hardcastle and Winfield-Hill completing their hat-tricks while Burke and Wood also crossed.