Of the 17 players from Loughborough Lightning – Northampton Saints’ women’s team – selected for the Rugby World Cup, 11 remained in New Zealand as the tournament reached its quarter-final stage.
Here, we look at how Lightning’s internationals fared in the last eight as they aimed to take the next step towards lifting the trophy…
Record-breaker Hunter sets England on their way
England’s 41-5 quarter-final victory against Australia at Auckland’s Waitakere Stadium brought up a historic moment for their captain, Sarah Hunter, as her 138th cap made her their record appearance-maker.
Hunter started at No.8 and she was one of three Loughborough players in the Red Roses’ starting line-up, with Emily Scarratt at outside centre and Helena Rowland showing her versatility at full-back.
Lightning clubmates Sadia Kabeya, Cath O’Donnell, Morwenna Talling and Detysha Harper all cheered their colleagues on from the stands having not been selected.
The extremely wet conditions meant the game was going to be one for the purist, but England possessing a nigh-on unstoppable pack meant conditions were going to be in their favour.
On the day of setting a record, it was Hunter who got the ball rolling, or at least kept it at her feet before dotting it down, as a Red Roses scrum rumbled its way over for the opening try after eight minutes.
It was the first of seven tries scored by England, all by their forwards, as Marlie Packer went over twice to open up a 19-0 lead, including two Scarratt conversions, before Emily Chancellor rounded off a fine move to put Australia on the board just before half-time.
It was one-way traffic after the break, however, as Abbie Ward, Amy Cockayne and Alex Matthews all forced their way over before Packer completed her hat-trick in the final minute.
Rowland ensured it was a Loughborough player who had the final word, as well as the opening line, as she converted Packer’s third with what was the final kick of the match.
It meant a 29th straight win for England as the pre-tournament favourites cruised into the semi-finals.
Lightning team-mates to clash in last four
Later on Sunday, the Red Roses would find out their opponents after Canada defeated old rivals USA 32-11, with Loughborough lock Courtney Holtkamp part of their starting XV.
It was the second week running the Canadians and Americans had faced off, with the Maple Leafs coming out on top 29-14 in the final round of pool fixtures.
Holtkamp was on the field for 49 minutes before being replaced by Ngalula Fuamba, but there was no place in the side for Sara Svoboda, who had played in Canada’s previous two games, or USA lock Hallie Taufoou.
It was USA who struck first through Joanna Kitlinski after nine minutes, but Canada proved too strong for them again, scoring tries through McKinley Hunt, Karen Paquin, Paige Farries and Alex Tessier.
Sophie De Goede added 12 points with the boot as the Canadians booked their date against the English in the last four at Eden Park on Saturday.
Elsewhere, Loughborough’s Carys Williams-Morris was not part of Wales’ matchday squad as they were sent crashing out of the competition after a 55-3 thrashing at the hands of hosts New Zealand.
The Black Ferns were too strong at the Northland Events Centre in Whangarei, where they ran in nine tries, including a record-breaking 20th World Cup score for winger Portia Woodman.
They will face France, who defeated Italy 39-3, in the semi-finals after England’s clash with Canada.