England came into the match second in the world rankings, and they showed just why with a strong performance which was ultimately rewarded with a 26-point win over the Barbarians.

They were seven points up inside four minutes, Lark Davies driven over from a lineout. Hannah Botterman bookended the opening quarter when she crashed over between the uprights, but while England dominated they were made to work hard for their scores by a determined Barbarians.

England’s defence had been just as impressive as their attack, and it had to be at its best at the start of the second quarter as the Barbarians showed how threatening they could be with ball in hand.

Forwards and backs combined to take play from halfway to the goal line, but when it really needed to the England effort held to win a penalty.

England extended their lead on the half-hour through Poppy Cleall, but back came the Barbarians, Tova Derk sparking an attack with some silky stepping on half-way. But when Emily Wood overran a pass England had escaped, and within a couple of minutes had extended their lead, Davies driven over again.

England may have scored four before the break, but they had left another couple of scores out on the pitch, and they had another chalked off for a forward pass soon after play resumed which saw momentum swing.

Jasmine Joyce’s break gave her team mates impetus, and when play moved infield Sene Naoupu drew a couple of defenders before offloading for Wood to dive over.

The rest of the third quarter belonged to the Barbarians, and their efforts were rewarded just past the hour when Fiao’o Fa’amausili burst through to score.

At 28-14 England were rocking, but they rolled up their sleeves with a pair of quick-fire tries which put the contest to bed, Davies driven over for her hat trick and Kelly Smith put into the clear on the left wing.

“We expected a fast game and that’s what we got,” said Fa’amasili.

“We were on defence for most of the game and it’s hard to win a game when you’re on D all the time. Credit to us, because we haven’t really done much defence, so to come together and do it running at a hundred miles per hour. It’s what we expected.

“We had an awesome day — the crowd was great — and it was brutal. Barbarians rugby is about fun, flair and we did some of that. We scored two good tries. I was lucky to see a gap. Nolli put me through the hole and we left it all out there.”

England: McKenna; Thompson (Williams 67), Tuima, Reed, Smith; Harrison (Heard 50), Riley (MacDonald 50); Botterman (Perry 57), Davies (Nielson 64), Bern (Edwards 57), Aldcroft, Scott, Cleall, Brown (Galligan 46), Hunter (capt) (Burnfield 33)

Barbarians: Waterman (Gulliver 71); Joyce, Wood, Naoupu, Derk (Ahki 50); Snowsill (vice-capt), Sue (Casey 71); Clark (Keates 50), Fa’amausili (Mignot), Te Ohaere Fox (vice-capt)(Kerr 57), Farmer (Taylor 40), Dennison, Lavea (Large 67), Molloy, Itunu (capt)