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Sunday Apr 14, 2024

Six Nations Round Up: A table of two halves

Scotland 0 – 46 England

Jess Breach finished off a stunning team try for England that typified the Red Roses afternoon in Edinburgh and showed the calibre of rugby being played in this season’s Women’s Six Nations. With a final score of 46-0, there were plenty of standout moments for the team in white, but the Harlequins winger’s finish was the pick of the bunch.

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A typically powerful English scrum powered Scotland backwards, Mo Hunt scooped up the ball, whipping a quick pass to Tatyana Heard who deftly offloaded to fly-half Holly Aitchison. Aitchison spotted Abby Dow cutting in from the right wing behind her, sent the ball on, Dow threaded herself inside her defender and sent the ball soaring where Jess Breach plucked it from the air, looked up into acres of space and hurtled herself forward and over the line.

Scotland spent the week celebrating selling out the Hive for England’s visit, but the Red Roses would celebrate in the sun as the final whistle blew.

 

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Scoring eight tries would normally be an unqualified success and England will be very happy with their performance, particularly in a wet and windy first half that was rife with handling errors. Scotland will take solace that, for the fourth tournament in a row, they have reduced their deficit in the scoreline.

Amy Cokayne returned from nearly a year out injured to open the scoring for the Red Roses after only six minutes, electric winger Abby Dow added their second on the 11th and thereafter Scotland held back their relentless attack. Cokayne was yellow carded after 30 minutes, her tip tackle causing Maud Muir’s score to be chalked off. Ellie Kildunne would add a third before half time.

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The second half saw the sun put in an appearance, but otherwise it was more of the same, with Scotland showing glimpses of their gameplan but struggling to retain possession. Cokayne received a second yellow card after leading with the shoulder, but would also add five more tries to their tally, with Sadia Kabeya scoring from a rolling maul, Jess Breach bagging a brace, Kildunne nabbing a second of her own and Marlie Packer showing how impressed she was to be relegated to the substitute bench by scoring in the 72nd minute, only ten minutes after joining proceedings.

Ireland 36 – 5 Wales

The second game of round three saw the action move to a surprising sun-dappled Cork as Ireland took on Wales. Katie Corrigan’s quick-thinking kick block early in the second half was typical of the afternoon. The lightning quick teenage winger chased down a long looping kick and when it was gathered by the Welsh defence who prepared a kick of their own, she found herself in the perfect position to block it, scoop the bouncing ball out of the air and dance past red shirts to score.

Ireland scored 36 points inside of 60 minutes, with the lone try of the final quarter suggesting we might see a Welsh comeback, though it was not to be for the visitors and Ireland chalked up their first tournament win since 2022, a well taken 65-5 victory.

If the first game of the weekend was built on precision, the second would showcase the graft Ireland have built their game on. Sam Monaghan led from the front and Dorothy Wall, her partner in the engine room, was relentless in the tackle. Blindside flanker Aoife Wafer took the player of the match award but it truly was a team performance with Wafer, Eve Higgins, Neve Jones, Corrigan, and 7s star winger Beibhinn Parsons all supplying tries, ably reinforced by Dannah O’Brien’s reliable boot.

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Wales looked tired and dejected throughout, but there will be green shoots of hope in the form of young forward Gwennan Hopkins who joined the fray in the 60th minute, scored Wales lone points five minutes later and looked to be an exciting prospect, burning through tackles and throwing herself into the game with abandon. If Ioan Cunningham’s team can all channel that energy, they have a hope of turning around what has been a sorry tournament so far for Wales.

France 38 – 15 Italy

Finally, on Sunday, we turned to Paris and the Stade Jean Bouin. Italy entered the game buoyed by a win in Ireland in the previous round, while France will have spent the fallow week contemplating a their own, slightly lacklustre, victory away to Scotland. For the rest of the rugby world, eyes were firmly on the person in the middle as Joy Neville oversaw her last game, closing out an impressive career as a referee, that followed a great international career as a player for Ireland.

Once the whistle was blown it took France only a minute and 45 seconds to open their account. Nassira Konde exploiting an inch of space to score the first points of France’s 38-15 win.

After a pair of kicks to the corner that led to nothing, Italy decided to take the points on their third penalty of the afternoon. Beatrice Rigoni effortlessly slotting her kick. France replied immediately. Pauline Bourdon-Sansus finding loosehead prop Annaelle Deshaye. Despite taking the ball outside the 22, the front row powered over the line, two Italy defenders hanging from her after failing to bring her down.

A yellow card for Italy’s Sara Tounesi opened up space for France to add a third try from Charlotte Escudero and then a fourth as a gorgeous cross field kick from Bourdon-Sansus seemed to hand in the air until Melissandre Llorens was ready to pluck the ball and skip over the try line with it.

Wanting to get in on the try-scoring action tighthead Assia Khalfaoui opened up the second half scoring to extend Les Belus’ lead, adding to her already impressive performance that included topping the carry count for her team.

An impressive Italian rolling maul in the 51st minute looked to be turning the tide and once the ball was released Rigoni pounced and looked poised to score as the whistle blew. The resulting line out saw Irish bodies crashing time and again on the French defensive wall, driving them back to the try line until play was stopped while Marine Menager received treatment. Play resumed with a try close to the French line and Italy again crashed like waves against the blue shirts of the home team until the ball worked its way backward and found Alyssa D’inca, the winger swooping through a gap to score.

Madoussou Fall struck back for France, the powerful lock busting through the Italian defence to score as the game moved into its final quarter. As the clock would down it looked like Fall would be the final scorer of the game, but D’inca was having none of it and, with just four minutes left on the clock, she found the ball in her hands inside her own half, hugged the line and accelerated up field with blistering pace, a show-and-go wrongfooted the one French player positioned to block her and she found herself across the line to dot down.

It looked like Italy might add another in the final minute but a knock-on with seconds left and a stoppage in play for a player on the floor allowed everyone to catch their breath before one last scrum as the clock went into the read. Italy won the ball and made their way up field before losing a line-out through a knock-on that brought with it the final whistle.

Image courtesy of BBC Sport

Written by Matt Merritt.

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