Scotland simply had no answer to a rampaging England, who now stand on the verge of a record sixth successive RBS Women’s Six Nations title after overwhelming their rivals 89-0 at Twickenham on Sunday.
Having conceded 132 points across their last two visits south of the border, the signs for Scotland were ominous when England wing Kat Merchant touched down after only a minute for the Women's Rugby World Cup 2010 runners up.
Fran Matthews, Emily Scarratt and Becky Essex quickly followed her across the whitewash as England established a 22-0 lead with only 16 minutes on the clock against a Scotland side going through a rebuilding phase.
England were in ruthless mood before a large crowd at Twickenham, many of whom had stayed after the men’s Calcutta Cup match, and tries followed from Rochelle Clark, Matthews and Heather Fisher to make it 41-0 at half time.
There was to be no let up in the second half with Fisher claiming her second try only 30 seconds after the restart, before Scarratt and Clark completed their own braces against a Scottish side who simply had no answer to the pace and physicality of their hosts.
Maggie Alphonsi then got in on the act with a try either side of a score by captain Katy McLean and there was still time for replacement Danielle Waterman – like Alphonsi a star of last year’s Women’s Rugby World Cup – to dot down a brace of her own.
“I am really happy with this result,” admitted coach Gary Street. “After making some good headway in the first half we stuck to the task after the restart and kept the momentum going. We managed to put on an exciting show for the thousands of fans that behind, whilst at the same time we did our basics well and stayed on track in the right direction.”
The only team capable of denying England a fifth Grand Slam in six years is Ireland when they meet at Ashbourne RFC on Friday evening, while France technically can pip them to the title, albeit only if England suffer a heavy loss in Ireland and the French run riot against Wales, such is the defending champions’ superior point differential.
Wales edge tight battle
“We must keep on improving though and Friday is going to be a massive game,” continued Street. “This is a short turnaround for both Ireland and ourselves and we need to manage that well. They’ll be wounded after losing to Wales so I am sure they will throw everything they have at us come Friday night.”
Ireland suffered their second loss of the Championship at the hands of Wales, who survived a tense finale 10 minutes at Cross Keys on Sunday afternoon to triumph 15-14.
The Welsh victory came only days after head coach Kris de Scossa had suddenly departed by mutual agreement with the Welsh Rugby Union, leaving assistants Liza Burgess and Rhys Edwards in charge until a successor is named.
It was Ireland who opened the scoring, hooker Gillian Bourke crashing over following a lineout near the Welsh line, lively full back Niamh Briggs adding the conversion.
However, the lead did not last long, Wales making their first visit to the Irish 22 count when centre Elen Evans sliced open the Irish defence to score a try under the posts to the delight of her teammates.
Aimee Young edged Wales ahead with a penalty and with their backline looking dangerous whenever they had the ball in hand, the hosts extended that when centre Adi Taviner capitalised on confusion in the Irish defence after Jenny Davies’ chip through to touch down.
The score remained at 15-7 to Wales until 12 minutes to go when Bourke scrambled over the line after good work from her pack, Briggs conversion cutting the deficit to one point and setting up a tense finale at Pandy Park.
France survive Italian scare
France, like Wales, bounced back from a defeat last time out as they battled past a resurgent Italian outfit to triumph 28-20 in Benevento to make it three wins from four outings in the Championship.
Italy went into the match on a high after beating Wales and even conceding two tries in the opening quarter did not derail them, Sandrine Agricole and Claire Canal touching down for France.
A penalty from the experienced Veronica Schiavon on the occasion of her 50th cap split these two tries and when captain Paola Zangirolami made a good break to score Italy’s first try the deficit had been cut to just two points.
France extended their lead to 19-10 at the break after their impressive centre Eloudie Poublan scored her sixth try of the Championship – the other five having all come in round one against Scotland.
Schiavon and Agricole exchanged penalties early in the second half before Italy scored a breakaway try by Flavia Severin to keep the possibility of repeating their male counterpart’s victory over France a day earlier.
There was to be no Italian double, though, as Nadège Casenave eased French nerves with two penalties. Italy can now look forward to a trip to Scotland, knowing that they are on target to match their fifth place finish of 2010.
“I thought today that we showed that we have reduced the gap that separated us from France, especially compared to last year. The match was tough but in the end we made life hard for them,” Schiavon said afterwards.
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