Spain made an emphatic statement of intent to retain their Women’s European Trophy title on home soil by defeating newcomers Finland 119-0 on the opening day of pool matches in Coruna.
Finland only played their first women’s international match in 2007 and knew they faced a difficult challenge alongside some of Europe’s top teams, but will undoubtedly learn from the experience, despite the one-sided score.
It took only two minutes at the University of Coruna for Spain to score the opening try through fly half Marina Bravo and by half time the lead stood at 65-0 with the Finland line breached a further 10 times.
Number 8 Angela del Pan (2), centres Agurtzane Obregozo and Barbara Pla (2), wings Julia Pla and Berta Garcia (2), full back Patricia Garcia and flanker Sara de la Llama all touching down to the delight of the home crowd.
There was no let up after the break with Spain scoring a further eight tries, including second touch downs for Bravo, Julia Pla and Obregozo with Del Pan completing her hat-trick with her side’s final try of their Pool A encounter.
Spain’s next match is against France A on Monday, their opponents also having made a winning start to the competition with a 40-3 victory over a young and inexperienced Sweden side rebuilding after Women’s Rugby World Cup 2010.
A strong French side, featuring a number of players who took part in the RBS Women’s Six Nations earlier this year, started brightly with four tries in the first half through fly half Manon Andre, scrum half Marine de Nadaï (2) and number 8 Sandrine Rabier.
Full back Rebecka Lundgren scored Sweden’s only points with a first half penalty as they went in trailing 26-3. There was no way back after the break with flanker Ludivine Coste crossing for two tries for the side who finished fifth in 2010.
Tight battles in Pool B
The two Pool B matches on Saturday were much tighter affairs with a single score the difference as England A edged Italy 5-0 and Russia surprising the Netherlands, who finished third in 2010, 17-10.
Russia, on paper the least experienced of the Pool B sides, currently top the standings after outscoring the Netherlands by three tries to two, although they certainly did not have things all their own way in Acea Da Ma.
Wing Marina Petrova crossed for two tries as Russia raced into a 12-0 lead, but they would end the first half with only 13 players after seeing prop Elena Shevtsova and second row Ekaterina Ksenofontova sin-binned within minutes of each other.
Christy van Oorschot touched down for the Netherlands while they had the player advantage, but flanker Anna Gottseva eased Russia further ahead with a try just before the hour mark and, although Rita Wiri scored, there was no way back for the Dutch.
England A enjoyed a dream start against a strong Italian outfit with full back Kay Wilson opening the scoring with a fifth minute try following some good work among the backs, but despite piling the pressure on they were unable to increase their lead.
Italy’s defence held firm and they continued to cause problems for their opponents, who despite dominating both possession and territory were unable to find a way through and themselves had to defend hard in the latter stages to maintain their 5-0 lead.
“This was a tough opener as we’d expected,” admitted England A coach Mike Barnett, whose side will now face the Netherlands on Monday, while Italy face a must-win match against Russia if they are to keep alive hopes of a second successive final appearance.
“It was a physical game too and we were definitely tested, but that is exactly what we wanted in our first game. We now need to keep moving forward and if we do that then we will be in good shape by the end of the week when the tournament gets really serious.”
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