The Black Ferns eventually mastered a combative France side and wet conditions at the Stade Felix Mayol in Toulon on Friday to win 14-0 and register their ninth consecutive victory.
After a scoreless first half, second-row Eloise Blackwell dived over in the 52nd minute to break the deadlock and Kendra Cocksedge added the conversion. Barely five minutes later, winger Renee Wickliffe, hitherto a stranger to the action, finishing a slick handling move in style and Cocksedge’s second conversion doubled the lead to 14-0.
Stung by that two-try salvo, France came storming back at their visitors, but their efforts were repelled time and time again by a determined defence.
The Black Ferns gained 0.59 of a point for keeping their unbeaten record against Les Bleues intact, taking them on to 96.24 points – 4.82 points more than nearest rivals England.
Daley-Mclean steals the show
On the same evening, Katy Daley-Mclean celebrated her 100th cap in style with an intercept try and five conversions in a 57-5 win over a USA side reduced to 14 players early in the first half.
Leanne Riley opened the scoring for England before USA Women's Eagles prop Megan Rom was dismissed for leading with the forearm into a tackle, and Sarah McKenna quickly capitalised on the extra space with a second score off an excellent line.
A penalty try and a score for captain Abbie Scott was then followed by Daley-McLean’s finish from past halfway as the Red Roses went into half-time at Allianz Park leading 33-0.
Kelly Smith and Sarah Hunter added two more after the break before Janine Duncan struck back for USA.
There was still time for Smith to cross for the second time as well as a last-minute score by Carys Williams in a comfortable victory for England.
Wales, ranked ninth, have closed to within two-hundredths of a point of Ireland in the rankings after a hard-fought 19-5 win over South Africa saw them pick up just over a quarter of a point.
Jasmine Joyce and Sioned Harries crossed for first-half tries, Robyn Wilkins converting one, as Wales established a 12-0 lead. But the home side were unable to build on the scores and the Springbok Women, playing in their first test for four years, hit back with a try from Lusanda Dumke.
Wales had to wait until the dying stages before crossing again, captain Carys Phillips supplying the finish with Wilkins adding the extras.
Medin hat-trick as Spain score 10
Spain made short work of Hong Kong in Alicante in a match which Las Leones knew they needed to win to prevent them falling outside of the world’s top 10 ranked nations.
Las Leonas scored five tries in each half against an inexperienced Hong Kong outfit giving debuts to 14 players.
Taking the game to Hong Kong from the outset, Spain scored their first try in the fifth minute through captain Isabel Rico. Paula Medin then helped herself to a 13-minute first-half hat-trick before Uribarri Barrutieta added another seven minutes before the break. With Patricia Garcia on target with four of her five conversion attempts, Spain enjoyed a 33-0 half-time lead.
Try number six came from Ana Puig shortly after the restart before Hong Kong pulled five points back through flanker Winnie Siu.
From then on, Spain resumed control and the hosts added further tries from Alba Vinuesa, Ingrid Algar, Olivia Fresneda and María Losada with Garcia converting the final one for a 60-5 scoreline.