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Sunday Apr 28, 2024

England clinch record third grand slam in a row

The Women’s Six Nations concluded on Saturday with England winning a record third grand slam in a row as they beat France with an incredibly impressive performance. This also marked their sixth tournament win in a row, with France taking second place – a full nine points behind them in the table.

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Here is the full round up of the day’s events:

Wales 22 – 10 Italy

Pride was the biggest thing on the line for the Welsh team and while they would end up bottom of the table regardless of their result in this game, they didn’t want to leave the tournament winless. For Italy a win could have seen them propelled to mid-table heights and the opportunity to challenge themselves against the world’s elite.

What transpired was a back-and-forth affair, the hosts would open the scoring after a quarter of an hour, with Carys Phillips making the most of a nice set-piece play to score in the corner. Two minutes later and confusion in the Welsh defensive line gave Alyssa D’Inca space and she made the most of it, sprinting free and passing to Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi to cancel out the deficit, before Beatrice Rigoni’s boot put the visitors ahead.

A Rigoni penalty kick, with two minutes left before half-time, put Italy comfortably ahead at the break, but as the whistle blew for the second half, and the roar of a 10,000 strong crowd created a surge of adrenaline, Wales seemed to remember the team they were capable of becoming. Gwenllian Pyrs scored early, with Keira Bevan converting and a few minutes later kicking a penalty of her own too.

Francesca Granzotto pulled Italy level again, before, in the 69th minute, Emma Stevanin, on the end of some beautiful, flowing passes from the Azzuri, put her team back in the lead. It looked like Italy would take the win but Wales refused to give up and with just three minutes left, and Italy constantly holding up the Welsh attack, powerful young prop Sisilia Tuipulotu crashed over the line and Lleucu George held her nerve to convert the try and put her team ahead with barely a minute left in the game. Wales managed to see it out and take a much-needed win.

With the two teams finishing 6th and 5th in the tournament respectively, Italy have qualified for a place in WXV2 in the autumn, and as such will have secured their spot at the World Cup. Wales, with their last place finish, will face Spain in a play-off match (probably in June) the winner will join WXV 2 and their World Cup qualification will be assured, while the loser will join WXV 3.

Ireland 15 – 12 Scotland

In perhaps the most interesting game of round 5, a resurgent Ireland showed that they are truly on the comeback trail against a rugged and resilient Scottish side.

The opening half saw just a single try, Rachel Malcolm confidently receiving at the line-out and Scotland forming a training paddock-perfect rolling maul, with Elis Martin slotting in at the back to score. Minutes later there would be a lengthy injury stoppage as Scotland scrum-half Caity Mattinson was treated, before being replaced by Mairi McDonald. This seemed to sap the energy out of the half and Scotland would go into the break with the only points on the board.

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The second half saw Ireland draw level with a well taken try from young winger Katie Corrigan who found the slightest of gaps and managed to ride out a pair of tackles to score and bring Ireland level.

Lisa Thomson put Scotland back in the ascendancy less than 10 minutes lates and Helen Nelson’s conversion increased their lead, but with the game heading into the final quarter Cliodhna Moloney showed why Irish fans have been calling for her return to the team with a picture-perfect lineout throw that allowed Ireland to deploy their own maul and Moloney to reap the rewards. Danah O’Brien converted to draw the teams level once again.

Momentum was with Ireland as they tried time and again to take the lead only for Scotland to stop them, before the visitors were penalised for not rolling away and Ireland coolly pointed to the posts. O’Brien slotted the penalty with ease and despite a yellow card Ireland, buoyed by a record crowd in Belfast, took the win that would confirm their third-place finish. More than that, they qualified for the World Cup, a huge boon for a nation who suffered the ignominy of being absent for the previous tournament. That finish also sees them go from being winners of WXV 3 to facing the Red Roses, Black Ferns and more in WXV 1 in the autumn, while Scotland will once again play in WXV 2 and secured their own World Cup berth in the process.

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND – APRIL 27: Ireland players celebrate after the team’s victory and qualification for the 2025 Women’s Rugby World Cup during the Guinness Women’s Six Nations 2024 match between Ireland and Scotland at Kingspan Stadium on April 27, 2024 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

France 21 – 42 England

Both teams came into this game with WXV 1 and World Cup qualification assured, so their eyes were firmly on the prize. If France won, they would break England’s streak, while a Red Roses victory would confirm a third consecutive Grand Slam title (and sixth tournament win in a row).

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The Red Roses hit the ground running, with Maud Muir scoring after 4 minutes and Alex Matthews adding a try of her own on the 11th while Holly Aitchison, whose conversions have been the one weak link in her skillset coming into the tournament, coolly slotted both kicks.

France replied through some lovely play by Gabrielle Vernier, but Megan Jones just seven minutes later returned their leading margin. Marine Menager would give France a second try while England would add two of their own, captain Marlie Packer and hooker Cokayne with the honours.

With England going into the break 20 points clear all expectation was that France would come out firing in the second half, instead Les Bleus had to contend with a red card for their imperious tighthead prop Assia Khalfoui.

Despite being a player down the French rallied time and again, building their momentum only to crash on the white cliffs of the English defence. A second for Menager with 10 minutes remaining gave them a glimmer of hope, but England had built too big a scoreline for them to surmount and when, just two minutes later, Matthews added a second of her own for the Red Roses, the result was inevitable.

BORDEAUX, FRANCE – APRIL 27: (L-R) Sydney Gregson, Holly Aitchison, Abby Dow and Abbie Ward of England celebrate after their Grand Slam Six Nations victory during the Guinness Women’s Six Nations 2024 match between France and England at Stade Chaban-Delmas on April 27, 2024 in Bordeaux, France. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Written by Matt Merritt.

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