Elen Evans scored a hat-trick as Wales picked up their first win of the RBS Women’s Six Nations against Scotland, but it is five-time defending champions England who top the standings from France after overwhelming Italy 68-5.
The Welsh centre’s tries all came in the first half at Burnbrae and ensured that Wales, who picked up the wooden spoon in 2010, were always in control against a Scottish side that had conceded 53 points away to France the previous weekend.
Scotland had started brightly, but two Aimee Young penalties gave Wales the lead, one that grew when the home side lost two players to the sin-bin and Evans pounced to round off two good attacks.
Her hat-trick was wrapped up on the stroke of half time to send Wales in with a commanding 26-0 and worse was to follow for Scotland with Charlotte Murray and Caryl James touching down for the visitors.
Tries from debutant Tracy Balmer and Lindsay Wheeler did get Scotland on the board, but despite coach Karen Findlay insisting afterwards her side had shown “considerable improvement in various areas”, it was Wales who had the final say as Kerin Lake marked her own debut with a try.
England march on
Next up for Wales is Italy in a fortnight’s time, a side they lost to in 2010 and who will themselves be looking to bounce back from the disappointment of a heavy loss to England in round two.
England ran in 11 tries to overwhelm a “gutsy” Italian outfit at Esher, including six from six different players in the first half with Maggie Alphonsi, Heather Fisher, Danielle Waterman, Emily Scarratt, Kat Merchant and Rowena Burnfield touching down, the latter for her first ever Test try.
There was no let up after the break with Merchant and scrum half La Toya Mason touching down in quick succession, before Italy caught their hosts by surprise with replacement Chiara Castellarin getting on the end of a grubber kick.
England then picked up where they had left off with Waterman and Fisher claiming their second tries of the match either side of a score by Georgina Roberts putting the gloss on an impressive victory.
“This was a great performance and a gutsy display from Italy,” said England coach Gary Street. “Although we made some changes to the squad, the team came together well. It was also great to see the backs get their chance after a wet forward dominated game against Wales last weekend.
“After this I will definitely have some selection headaches ahead of our game against France.”
France warmed up for this potential title decider in Worcester on 27 February – which will be shown live on Sky Sports – with a hard fought 14-12 defeat of Ireland at Ashbourne RFC on Friday evening.
Positives for Ireland in defeat
Fresh from a 53-3 rout of Scotland in the opening round – one which included a five-try haul for Elodie Poublan, France enjoyed a lot of early pressure but some tireless Irish defence restricted their visitors to just two penalties in the first quarter of the match.
Roared on by their vocal home support, Ireland got on the board in the 21st minute with Niamh Kavanagh’s second try in as many games, the wing hacking through Nora Stapleton’s kick to touch down.
Niamh Briggs, once again a standout player at full back, missed the tricky conversion and a subsequent penalty as France led 6-5 at the break. Caroline Ladagnous went close to scoring for the visitors within minutes of the restart, but Briggs came to Ireland’s rescue.
France spent much of the third quarter of the match in the Ireland half, but once again the home defence frustrated their visitors, until just past the hour mark when prop Christelle Chobet drove over from five metres out.
Aurelie Bailon stretched the advantage with a penalty, but Ireland refused to accept defeat and were rewarded for their efforts when Briggs touched down and converted her own try to cut the deficit to two points. France, though, held on for victory to keep their title hopes alive.
“Even though it felt like a victory, at the end of the day it's not a victory and we don't have points on the board,” admitted Briggs afterwards. “We came here to win and we didn't achieve our goals, so obviously we are going to be bitterly disappointed about the outcome.
“I think we showed tonight that we can live with France, they came third or fourth in the World Cup so they are obviously a very good team. We just need to keep improving, believing in ourselves, taking care of our own game and then hopefully we'll be able to bring it against Scotland.”
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