Spain secure late win in Women's Trophy

(IRB.COM) Tuesday 3 May 2011
 Spain secure late win in Women's Trophy
Spain celebrate victory over France A - Photo: Antonio Martin Sotelo

Spain's quest to successfully defend the Women's European Trophy title remains on track, albeit only after Marina Bravo held her nerve to kick the winning conversion six minutes from time to snatch a 12-11 victory over France A.

The tournament hosts had overwhelmed Finland, a fledgling nation in terms of women's rugby, 119-0 on day one, but the battle with France A was always going to be a tight affair and so it proved as the lead changed hand three times in the first half.

Centre Laura di Muzio kicked two penalties for France A in the opening quarter at the University of Coruna with a try by Spanish hooker Aroa Gonzalez scored in between as the match lived up to expectations.

France A would go in leading 11-5 at the break after flanker Manon Andre touched down despite her side being a player down with prop Ludivine Coste in the sin-bin.

Spanish celebrations

Spain's cause was not helped by the sin-binnings of Gonzalez and scrum half Isabel Rodriguez either side of half time, but they upped the ante after the break but could not find a way through until the dying minutes.

The penalty try, though, only brought them to within one and needed Bravo to edge them ahead with the conversion. France A could have snatched the win, but a penalty attempt went wide and Spain could celebrate.

The final is now within touching distance of Spain, but they will take nothing for granted against a young Sweden side who overcame Finland 20-0 in the day's other Pool A match.

Sweden, going through a process of rebuilding after Women's Rugby World Cup 2010, scored three first half tries through wing Rebecka Lundgren (2) and scrum half Sofia Gertz, but could manage just one - through Edena Alija - after the break.

England A, meanwhile, look on course to reach the final as Pool B winners after following up a tight 5-0 win over Italy by seeing off the challenge of the Netherlands 36-0.

Final in sight for England A

All six of England's tries came in the first half with the bonus point secured inside just 12 minutes after tries from Marlie Packer, Nicola Hoole, Kay Wilson and Natasha Hunt. Tamara Taylor and Hoole crossed the line as the half wore on, but an improved defensive effort from the Dutch women ensured the score remained unchanged after the break.

“I am pleased with this performance," admitted England A coach Mike Barnett. "In the first half we were very dominant and I think the Netherlands were shell-shocked. However, they started to tackle well after the break and we made more mistakes, though they still never really challenged our line.

“It’s good that we have not conceded any points again; that is important to us. We wanted a good record in the early stages of this tournament and we have that."

England will finish the pool stages against Russia on Wednesday, the first day winners unable to make it two out of two after coming unstuck against 2010 runners up Italy, losing 34-0.

Tries from Sara Pettinelli, Luna Nicchi, Michaela Tondinelli and Maria Chiara Nespoli ensured Italy A secured the bonus point by half time, with Nicchi claiming her second of the match 15 minutes from time.