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England run in eight tries to demolish Wales in Women’s Six Nations
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England run in eight tries to demolish Wales in Women’s Six Nations

If last week’s spluttering show against Italy offered an underwhelming start to John Mitchell’s tenure as coach of the Red Roses, this performance underlined the team’s claim to being the most dominant side on the planet.

Ugo Monye, the former England men’s winger, this past week declared the Roses the best team in all sport across the sexes. And with their continued supremacy over the rest of the continent – they have now won 25 consecutive Six Nations matches stretching back to 2018 – few could offer a counter argument. But a complete display was needed to right the wrongs from the first round.

They did that here. Mitchell made seven changes to the team that beat Italy. One, at fly-half, made a real difference. Holly Aitchison’s speed of passing ignited a new-look midfield of Tatyana Heard and Megan Jones, both of whom punched holes with almost every carry. With a pack providing front-foot ball and pace in the wide channels, England proved too much for Wales, bagging eight tries in front of 19,705 fans, the most for a Roses game outside Twickenham.

“We’ve grown over the week,” England’s captain, Marlie Packer, said. “We put a spotlight on ourselves, on our positive intent. We want to put on an exciting brand of rugby on the pitch.” Mitchell praised his team’s intent but still spoke of room for improvement.

The first try was the pick of the bunch. On eight minutes, Aitchison spotted an overlap forming down the right. The ball zipped through hands until it got to Packer, who stood firm in contact to offload for Abby Dow. The outstanding winger exploded round the last defender before stepping off her right foot infield. She came close to the line herself but wisely held on. Maud Muir, on the short run, powered over to get England going.

Zoe Aldcroft, playing in her 50th Test, was the next to dot down from a short ball off the back of clean lineout work. When Aitchison added the extras, having missed her first kick, a rout looked the most likely outcome.

Hannah Botterman celebrates scoring England’s third tryView image in fullscreen

Wales rallied and spent enough time in England’s red zone to make a game of it. But a combination of tenacious defending and sloppy play from the visitors meant they could not turn territory into points. Passes were either thrown forward or intercepted. One reached a free Hannah Jones on the double bounce. And when the Wales forwards dallied at the breakdown they were picked off and punished, as was the case when England’s Jones gathered in her own 22, unfurled a deceptive dummy, cantered up field and kicked off the toe.

In a flash, the scrum-half Natasha Hunt was digging for the ball on Wales’s line, where she linked with a charging Hannah Botterman, who bashed past tacklers to score. Lark Atkin-Davies put the gloss on with a rolling-maul try after a lineout to head into the shed 24-3 to the good.

England started the second half as they finished the first. George failed to find touch from a penalty and Connie Powell, on for Atkin-Davies, surged beyond red shirts as if she were a replacement wing and not a front-rower. After twice coming close, Ellie Kildunne stretched to score in the corner.

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Wales were already buried by this point but England still had more than half an hour to pile on the pain. A loose ball from an overthrown Wales lineout soon left Heard scything through midfield before Jess Breach found Dow out wide for an easy score.

Wales would have their deserved try on 52 minutes. Sustained pressure and better decision-making led to a crack in England’s defence and the substitute scrum-half, Keira Bevan, sniped under the posts.

That seemed to give England a jolt and they responded with two blink-and-you’ll-miss-them tries. The first came from the player of the match, Rosie Galligan, with a close-range biff and then Kildunne, who used those long levers again for her second. Aitchison missed both conversions, meaning she scored at 37.5% from the tee. If there’s one concern that remains after last week, it’s goal-kicking. But that should be little more than a ­footnote in an otherwise dominant exhibition.

Source: theguardian.com