STUART BATHGATE @ Twickenham
AFTER seeing their male counterparts blow a big lead against Scotland, England made no such mistake in the final game of the Women’s Six Nations, winning the Grand Slam with a display that was dominant from first to last. They took the lead after three minutes, had the try bonus point in the bag before the midway point of the first half, and ended up just short of their record for the fixture, the 89-0 win in 2011.
For Scotland, this was a fifth defeat in five games in the Championship. Although they battled hard in defence, they were simply outclassed by their opponents, whose squad are almost entirely full-time professionals.
“That is professionalism against amateurism in a snapshot,” Scotland coach Shade Munro said. “That’s the difference between the two sides. It’s not an excuse, because they’re a superb team. They’ve taken women’s sport, not only women’s rugby, to the next level.”
Sarah Beckett got the scoreboard going with a third-minute try from a pass by Poppy Cleall, then Jess Breach scored the second from a kick ahead by Katy Daley-Mclean. The third came from Natasha Hunt, who tapped and went from a penalty within 10 metres of the Scots line, and then Breach got the bonus score, this time from a kick through by player-of-the-match Emily Scarratt.
A strong scrum set up the platform for No 8 Sarah Hunter to pick up and feed Kelly Smith for try No 5, and then Cleall turned scorer from close range after a backs move had been stopped short. Scotland tightened up in defence for a time after that, but went further behind on half-time when captain Lisa Thomson was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on and Amy Cockayne got the home team’s seventh try to make it 45-0 at the break.
The visitors did not concede again while down to 14 players, as Helen Nelson began to orchestrate some promising attacks. England soon reasserted themselves, however, and Sarah Bern got the score that ran up the half-century after 50 minutes.
Further scores followed from Sarah Hunter, Scarratt, Cleall with her second, and Cath O’Donnell.
Daley-Mclean, who converted nine of her team’s 12 tries with Scarratt getting the last, was yellow-carded for the final seven minutes after not rolling away from a ruck. Realistically, Scotland knew that they would be hard-pressed to keep the score down to a respectable margin, and the very wet conditions played in favour of England’s powerful pack. Nonetheless, there have to be concerns not only about the scale of this defeat, but about the other results in a campaign which was the first without a win in three years.
England: S McKenna; J Breach, E Scarratt, Z Harrison, K Smith; K Daley-Mclean, N Hunt; H Botterman, A Cokayne, S Bern, P Cleall, A Scott, S Beckett, V Fleetwood, S Hunter. Subs: L Davies, V Cornborough, S Brown, C O’Donnell, M Packer, L Riley, R Burford, E Scott.
Scotland: C Rollie; R Lloyd, H Smith, L Thomson, A Sergeant; H Nelson, J Maxwell; M Kennedy, L Skeldon, M Forsyth, E Wassell, N Howat, S Bonar, R McLachlan, J Konkel. Subs: J Rettie, L Cockburn, K Dougan, P Muzambe, D McCormack, M Grieve, L Martin, A Evans.
Referee: J Neville (Ireland).
England: Tries: Beckett, Breach 2, Hunt, Smith, Cleall 2, Cokayne, Bern, Hunter, Scarratt, O’Donnell. Cons: Daley-Mclean 9, Scarratt.
Scoring sequence (England first): 5-0; 7-0; 12-0; 14-0; 19-0; 21-0; 26-0; 31-0; 33-0; 38-0; 40-0; 45-0 (h-t) 50-0; 52-0; 57-0; 59-0; 64-0; 66-0; 71-0; 73-0; 78-0; 80-0.
Yellow cards –