Emily Rudge led from the front with four tries as England Women won their first match in Papua New Guinea 24-10 in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd of around 7,000 in Goroka.
Rudge, a second-row who plays for St Helens, made history with the first four-try haul for England Women while Dannielle Anderson of Leeds and Wigan’s Rachel Thompson also touched down. Unusually, all 24 of England’s points came from tries, with none of them converted.
Craig Richards, the England Women head coach, said: “I’m delighted with the effort from the girls as it was an absolute war of attrition.
“I was pleased to see the girls dig in and overcome the testing circumstances such as the weather, physicality and a vocal home crowd in Goroka.
“The whole point of coming to Papua New Guinea wasn’t for the scorelines but it was to put ourselves in tough environments and see how we react, and the girls reacted in this first Test.”
It took more than 20 minutes for Rudge to break the deadlock, powering over from a short pass from Saints team-mate Jodie Cunningham – and the pair combined again for Rudge’s second to establish an 8-0 half-time lead.
The 28-year-old schoolteacher became the fourth England Women’s player to score an international hat-trick with an eyecatching third which extended the lead in the second half, and Anderson then crashed over to take the tourists further ahead.
The Orchids hit back through Shirley Joe from acting half-back, but Rudge then took Anderson’s pass to score her fourth, and Thompson rounded off the England scoring after good work from Charlotte Booth – although Ua Rave claimed a second for the Orchids late on.
The teams now travel down from the Eastern Highlands for next Saturday’s Second Test at the Oil Search Stadium in Port Moresby, in a fixture which will be played before the men’s Test between Great Britain and the Kumuls.
England Women: Tara-Jane Stanley, Rebecca Greenfield, Rachel Thompson, Naomi Williams, Kelsey Gentles; Jodie Cunningham, Faye Gaskin; Amy Johnson, Tara Jones, Grace Field, Emily Rudge ©, Chantelle Crowl, Shannon Lacey.
Interchanges: Charlotte Booth, Georgia Roche, Dannielle Anderson, Tamzin Renouf.
PNG Orchids: Gemma Schnaubelt, Ua Ravu, Belinda Gwasamun, Erswin Kaiat, Lyiannah Allan; Angelena Watego, Lila Malabag; Elsie Albert ©, Shirley Joe, Tahina Booth, Elizabeth Paisoi, Gloria Kaupa, Janet Johns.
Interchanges: Roswita Kapo, Seroge Sabume, Carol Humeu, Kia Monaei.
England Try-Scorers: Rudge (21’, 33’ 43’, 69’), Anderson (43’), Thompson (71’)
PNG Try-Scorers: Joe (65’), Ravu (77’)
PNG Conversions: Kaiat (66’)