Italy's 21-8 win over Japan secured their first ever berth in the Rugby World Cup playoffs
Auckland (AFP) - Unbeaten Canada and history-making Italy have confirmed women’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final berths after ending group play with clinical wins in Auckland on Sunday.
Canada used their forward power to see off the United States 29-14 while Italy’s 21-8 defeat of Japan set up a maiden appearance in the tournament playoffs.
The Canadians finished top of Pool B and will be second seeds in the knockout phase behind New Zealand.
Both teams notched three bonus-point wins but the tournament hosts boasted a superior points differential in topping Pool A.
Despite losing, the US will advance as one of the best third-placed teams.
The makeup of the quarter-finals will be determined after Sunday’s final match, when tournament favourites England meet South Africa to complete the group phase.
Canada’s driving play proved the difference in a bruising North American clash in which they scored five tries to two.
Emily Tuttosi set the tone for the Canucks when she crossed in the fifth minute.
The powerful hooker remains at the top of the tournament try-scoring list on six, with all having come from lineout drives.
Further tries to Alex Tessier and Paige Farries extended the lead to 19-7 at halftime before replacement forwards Olivia DeMerchant and Mikiela Nelson completed the scoring.
Backs Kate Zachary and Alev Kelter crossed in each half for the US but couldn’t prevent their team’s sixth straight loss to Canada.
Earlier, a record-breaking day for centre Michela Sillari lifted Italy to their second win and eliminated Japan.
Sillari became the highest point-scorer for her country, with an 11-point haul lifting her to 40 career points, surpassing the 33 of previous record-holder Michela Tondinelli.
Italy’s hopes of advancing to the quarter-finals were challenged when Japan levelled the score at 8-8 with half an hour remaining but Sillari stepped up to land her second of three penalties to give her team momentum at a decisive time.
Despite Italy making history, coach Andrea Di Giandomenico was unimpressed with elements of their play.
“We are happy of course, but we have work to do,” he said.
“There was no control in the match. Congratulations to Japan, but for us, we lost possession and lost control too much.”
Once again, their forward play lacked cohesion but they were threatening in the backs, with wingers Maria Magatti and Aura Muzzo particularly dangerous when given space.
Magatti opened their scoring with a try from a Muzzo assist before Japan responded with their only try of the game, to flanker Kyoko Hosokawa.
The outcome was still in the balance until the closing minutes, when Italian hooker Melissa Bettoni crossed.