England finish with emphatic win over Italy to seal second successive Grand Slam


Italy: (0) 0
England: (28) 54
Tries: Kildunne, Cleall, Scarratt, Ward, Bern, Breach, Riley, Packer Cons: Scarratt 5, Harrison 2

England claimed a second successive Women’s Six Nations Grand Slam with a bruising 54-0 win over Italy in Parma.

The Red Roses were already champions after four games but their intention to stay unbeaten was clear as Ellie Kildunne crossed within four minutes.

Poppy Cleall, captain Emily Scarratt and Abbie Ward followed suit for a first-half bonus point.

Four more tries after the break capped off a Six Nations which England dominated throughout.

After a slow start to the second half from the visitors, Sarah Bern found her way across the tryline, before Jess Breach, Leanne Riley and Marlie Packer added their names to the scoresheet.

The Red Roses now have a week off before playing two Tests against France as the countdown to the 2021 World Cup continues.

The weekend’s other two Women’s Six Nations matches – Wales v Scotland and France v Ireland – were postponed because of coronavirus.

Red Roses’ progress not halted by Six Nations suspension

England had not played a Test match since March and it initially seemed this had taken its toll as a miscommunication between Abby Dow and Amber Reed meant Katy Daley-Mclean’s kick-off went into touch.

But they needed just three minutes 40 seconds to collect themselves before Kildunne – who has impressed in sevens – made a stylish return to international 15-a-side rugby. The Red Roses built through the phases and the full-back deftly stepped through defenders to go over.

Then number eight Sarah Beckett picked the ball up from the base of the scrum and came up inches short of the line, with Cleall finishing the job.

Italy responded with a period of pressure, but squandered it with simple errors and England failed to capitalise as prop Bern’s try was ruled out because of an earlier knock-on.

But Scarratt, taking on captain’s duties in place of the injured Sarah Hunter, ran a scything support line to break through defenders and go over under the posts before converting her own score.

England secured a bonus point before half-time as lock Ward, returning from an 11-month injury, scored from a maul and Scarratt added her fourth successful conversion.

Both sides saw their levels drop after the break and Italy conceded a penalty – their 13th of the match – to give England the chance of a line-out in the corner.

The Red Roses forwards were unsuccessful in a maul but they could not be kept out for long and Bern eventually barged over.

England may have been missing regular captain Hunter and scrum-half Natasha Hunt, who had tested positive for coronavirus, but head coach Simon Middleton emptied an extremely strong bench in the 60th minute.

Fresh-legged forwards managed to create some gaps and wing Breach had just enough room to score in the corner.

A thick fog fell on the pitch and England struggled to find their way through until replacement scrum-half Riley – a late recruit to replace Hunt – grabbed an interception and dived across the line.

There was time for an eighth and final try, which Packer scored at the base of a maul before pretending to cradle a baby in celebration – dedicating the score to the child she and her partner welcomed in September.

How England won the Six Nations

A Six Nations table showing England on 27 points, France on 13, Ireland on 13, Italy on 4, Scotland on 3, Wales on 1

2 Feb: beat France 19-13

England started the defence of their Six Nations crown with a hard-fought win, Emily Scarratt racing clear for a fine solo try in the second half proving decisive.

10 Feb: beat Scotland 53-0

Switched to a Monday match at Murrayfield because of Storm Ciara, England were hot in the snowy and freezing conditions to go top of the standings.

23 Feb: beat Ireland 27-0

A rampant first-half performance did the damage as England inflicted a first defeat of the tournament on Ireland and moved a step closer to the title.

7 March: beat Wales 66-7

In the last game before the pandemic, a record near-11,000 crowd saw a Poppy Cleall hat-trick help England power past Wales at Twickenham Stoop.

1 November: beat Italy 54-0

With the title already secured by Scotland’s draw with France a week earlier, England clinched back-to-back Grand Slams with a ruthless eight-try win over Italy.

Player of the match: Abbie Ward

Abbie Ward runs with the ball
Lock Abbie Ward made a big impact on her return after an 11-month injury lay-off, scoring in the first half and taking over captainancy duties when Emily Scarratt went off after the break

‘Back-to-back Grand Slams are rare’ – what they said

England captain Emily Scarratt on Sky Sports: “It was really important we kept our foot on the gas and did ourselves justice. It was a really nice team performance.”

England player of the match Abbie Ward: “We wanted to finish the Six Nations on our terms. Doing a Grand Slam back-to-back is rare. It is something we were chasing.

“Our ability to actually play rugby after all this time… it is great that we are back together. English rugby is in a very exciting time.”

‘England can go into World Cup with high expectations’- analysis

Former England World Cup winner Rocky Clark on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra

England were in charge for most of the game. It was a good performance but there are a few things to tidy up which you would expect when you’ve not played for so long.

There are some young and talented players coming through and it was great to see them play so well with the World Cup one year away and they can go into it with high expectations.

England have been phenomenal throughout the tournament and can take confidence from that.

Line-ups

Italy: Furlan (capt); Magatti, Sillari, Rigoni, Stefan; Madia, Barattin; Turani, Bettoni, Gai, Fedrighi, Duca, Sgorbini, Franco, Giordano.

Replacements: Cerato, Skofca, Merlo, Tounesi, Sberna, Ostuni Minuzzi, Muzzo, Mancini.

England: Kildunne; Breach, Scarratt (capt), Reed, Dow; Daley-Mclean, MacDonald; Cornborough, Davies, Bern, Ward, Talling, Cleall, Packer, Beckett.

Replacements: Cokayne, Harper, Brown, Millar-Mills, Matthews, Riley, Rowland, Harrison.



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