|England (29) 75|
|Attempts: Galligan (3), Cleall (2), Brown, Powell (3), Packer, Kabeya (2), Dow Cons: Harrison (4), Rowland|
|South Africa (0) 0|
England pipped South Africa to the top of Group C on their way to a World Cup quarter-final against Australia.
A much-changed Red Roses side ran in 13 tries as they overwhelmed a spirited Springboks side.
Second-row Rosie Galligan – one of six England players making their tournament debut – kicked the first of three tries after six minutes.
Connie Powell completed her hat-trick in the 69th minute.
Sadia Kabeya went down to complete the emphatic victory.
England’s victory also confirms Wales’ place in the last 16, where they will face hosts New Zealand.
The Red Roses have extended their record to 28 consecutive victories and are now three games away from Rugby World Cup glory.
They played against the last eight in Australia in 2017, In the Women’s International Rugby Series in Wellington they won 53-10.
Beyond the Wallaroos is a potential semi-final with Canada and the final on November 12, with either New Zealand or France topping the other side of the draw.
All of those encounters will be a tougher test than the Springboks.
There were several impressive cameos from South Africa, with number eight Aseza Hele scattering the white shirts and winger Nomawethu Mabenge finding a gap early on.
But the 13th-ranked team in the world fell far short of England in most departments, especially in play.
After Galligan’s opener, Poppy Cleall made up for it as England stuck the South African pack in reverse both at the scrum and the lineout.
The vehicle scored another try for Galligan and another for Shaunagh Brown, who along with Ellie Kildunne were called into the match squad after minor injuries forced the withdrawal of Vickii Cornborough and Emily Scarratt.
After Connie Powell’s score, South Africa went from the tunnel to 29 points. And they would still consider themselves lucky.
Second row Catha Jacobs was the first of two Springboks to see yellow before the interval, but she could easily have been sent off for a shoulder on the chin from her Saracens teammate Poppy Cleall.
Powell got his second score just one minute after the restart off the back of another driven line.
With the result in doubt, England expanded their game plan, going from straight to brilliant and showing the variety that will be needed in the playoffs.
A delicious interplay with Cleall produced captain Marlie Packer’s 27th Test try before Abby Dow and Tatyana Heard split the Springboks apart to pave the way for Galligan to gallop over.
With South Africa tiring, the Red Roses took advantage of the space with forwards and backs to produce some of the best rugby of the tournament so far.
Clever hands from Cleall Heard sent him on before ending a spell of play that saw substitute Kabeya run across the width of the pitch and through a marked defence.
Dow dived for the 11th try on a three-score run in five minutes, before short-range tries from Powell and Kabeya piled on more points.
Middleton will be less concerned with the score and more interested in the fine print of individual performances.
Scrum half Lucy Packer was quick and clear in her decisions and delivery, and Galligan claimed a second row spot for the knockout stages.
Heard was a busy presence in midfield, while Dow and Breach were clinical when supplying the ball in the second half.
Some difficult selection decisions await the coach.
Player of the Match – Rosie Galligan
England: McKenna; Dow, Aitchison, Heard, Breach; Harrison, L Packer; Botterman, Powell, Muir; Galligan, O’Donnell, Talling, M Packer (c), Cleall
Subs: Cokayne, Cornborough, Bern, Aldcroft, Kabeya, Infante, Scarratt, Rowland
South Africa: Webb; Stones, Numbers, Guns, Roos; Jordan, Kinsey; Charlie, Botes, Lake, Booi (c), Jacobs, Dumke, Makua, Hell
Subs: Gunter, Ngxingolo, Mkiva, Mathe, Solontsi, Potgieter, Cilliers, Qawe