With the Spanish sun beating down in Madrid, the first round of matches at the Women's Rugby World Cup 2014 qualifier yielded victories for Italy, Scotland and hosts Spain at the Estadio de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid on Saturday.
Italy opened proceedings against the unknown quantity that is Samoa, and despite a battling performance from the Pacific Islanders their class shone through and they ran out 65-22. Spain were equally impressive in beating Sweden 55-0, while Scotland overcame the Netherlands 29-7.
The Italians, who narrowly missed out on qualification through the Women's Six Nations, scored 10 tries through Sara Barattin, Michela Este (2), Manuela Furlan, Flavia Severin (2), Michela Sillari, Cecilia Zublena, Veronica Schiavon and a penalty try.
They led 60-0 by the hour mark, but Samoa finished strongly to collect a bonus point for scoring four tries through Soteria Pulumu (2), Alix Leaupepe and Taimua Taiao. Even so, captain Cynthia Taala wasn't pulling any punches after the defeat.
“We made many mistakes, we were very nervous and because of that we couldn´t play the way we know how to," Taala said. "Going forward in the tournament we want to play our game again, go back to our style, play basic rugby. We also want to feel comfortable on the pitch and above all, regain confidence and have patience in what we do."
Scotland achieve objective
Next up the Netherlands took on Scotland's women, who came to the tournament with a point to prove following another disappointing Women's Six Nations campaign.
The Dutch made a promising start and trailed Scotland only 10-7 at half-time with Mireille Nieuwenhuis's try cancelled out by Megan Gaffney and Sarah Dixon's scores. However, tries from Gaffney, captain Susie Brown and Tanya Griffith saw Scotland to a 29-7 victory.
Head coach Karen Findlay was happy with the Scottish performance. "I'm really pleased. The objective today was to win and get a bonus point - we scored five fantastic tries, got the win and the bonus point," said Findlay.
"The pleasant thing about the tries was we created phases and the outside backs scored. And our skipper did a tremendous job to secure the fourth try, with the initiative to pick, tap and score herself, from a good 15 metres out.
"The front row also worked exceptionally hard and Lindsey Smith, the starting hooker, had the best game I've ever seen her play in a rugby shirt for Scotland."
Spain too strong
The day concluded with the hosts Spain delighting the home crowd of 1,000 with a convincing win over Sweden, the nation that had beaten them in the qualifiers for Women's Rugby World Cup 2010.
Spain scored nine tries against the Swedes through Laura Esbrí (2), Marina Bravo, captain Ana María Aigneren, Patricia García, Rocío García, Elisabet Martínez and replacement Julia Pla.
The qualifier continues at the same venue on Tuesday with the much-anticipated opener between Italy and Scotland followed by Sweden v Samoa and the Netherlands v hosts Spain.
The two qualifiers for the Women's Rugby World Cup 2014 will be known after the final match day on 27 April, leaving just two places remaining to be filled by an African and Asian qualifier.
The International Rugby Board will also announce the dates and venues for Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014 during the qualifying tournament.
All matches from the Women's Rugby World Cup 2014 qualifiers in Madrid will be streamed live via www.dailymotion.com/video/xz4j38_live-qualification-wrwc-madrid_sport#.UXEhBEpc1U0.
Round 2 Fixtures (Tuesday April 23):
13:30 Italy v Scotland
15:30 Sweden v Samoa
17:30 Netherlands v Spain
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