Abby Dow’s four tries help England thrash Italy in Six Nations mismatch

  • England 68-5 Italy
  • Italy struggle to contain England who now top the table

Abby Dow scored four tries and Jess Breach added a hat-trick in England’s 12-try destruction of Italy in the Women’s Six Nations on Sunday. The bonus-point win takes the defending champions top of the table on point difference with three rounds to go.

Full-back Dow and right-wing Breach were not the only stars with player-of-the-match prop Sarah Bern impactful across the pitch and Claudia MacDonald adding two tries. MacDonald was forced off before she could seal a hat-trick, her suspected knee problem compounding England’s injury worries. If she is ruled out, MacDonald will become the 20th Red Roses player to be unavailable.

But the head coach, Simon Middleton, seemed optimistic about the left-wing’s injury post-match, saying: “We will send her for a scan. First impressions are, touch wood, it’s not too serious. We will wait and see.”

Bern almost scored England’s first try as she looked to be in on the wing but the Italian defence held strong. There was an overlap on the left and after a few phases it was whipped to Breach who scored.

Italy hit back quickly and used England’s strongest asset against them. They formed a maul which marched over with Sara Tounesi reaping the rewards.

The Red Roses kept coming and clocked more points, the latest try coming from a territorial kick by Dow. Italy’s Vittoria Vecchini’s throw was long and Bern stole it at the back of the lineout. England adapted their attack as phases faltered and Holly Aitchison popped a cross-field kick to Breach who slickly offloaded to Dow to score.

Penalties went back and forth between the teams, each coughing up possession through errors, but a hugely dominant scrum pushed Italy back five metres and gave England a great platform. Slick passes put MacDonald in space. She beat two defenders and ran a quarter of the pitch to crash over.

Claudia Macdonald scores a try
Claudia Macdonald scored two tries before limping off the pitch with a suspected knee injury. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

The visitors suffered a blow on 26 minutes as inside-centre Beatrice Rigoni went off for a head injury assessment (HIA), temporarily replaced by Beatrice Capomaggi, and shortly after England thought they had the bonus-point try. MacDonald threw a long pass to Breach to go over but referee Kat Roche overturned the decision after the TMO showed hooker Amy Cokayne blocking Capomaggi in the build-up.

However, it was not long until England had their fourth with Bern running a great line before offloading to MacDonald who dotted down.

Italy were boosted by the return of Rigoni after she passed her HIA, but she was frustrated after Breach went over for England’s fifth. Rigoni believed England had knocked on in the build-up but the referee judged it to have been ripped by Italy instead. It was the last action of note before half-time with the score 27-5.

Giada Franco made a massive break as the second 40 got under way but her shouts of frustration could be heard from the stands a few phases later as England won a breakdown penalty. The hosts went on the attack again and Aitchison offloaded to Tatyana Heard, who spliced through to score under the posts.

Concerns came for MacDonald as she hobbled off after making a tackle. A stretcher was brought on but she was able to leave the field herself and to a standing ovation. Despite losing one of their key players, England continued to be rampant. Quick passes and the pace of Dow saw her over. The full-back’s rapid feet were in action once again as she beat two defenders to crash over for her hat-trick from distance.

Breach secured her own hat-trick after a storming run for the line in England’s next score. The team’s near-perfect arsenal, the driving maul, came good for the hosts as they charged over with captain Marlie Packer scoring. The Red Roses just kept on firing and Dow was in for her fourth. She almost added another after a great fend but she was hauled down on the 22. Possession changed hands in the closing stages but England scored once more through Packer and that famous maul.

  • Download the Guardian app from the iOS App Store on iPhone or the Google Play store on Android by searching for 'The Guardian'.
  • If you already have the Guardian app, make sure you’re on the most recent version.
  • In the Guardian app, tap the Menu button at the bottom right, then go to Settings (the gear icon), then Notifications.
  • Turn on sport notifications.

“It’s good to see the backs on the ball, every time you look up from the breakdown and they are on the ball you know something is going to happen,” Packer said. “We had two new caps out there today [Delaney Burns and Emily Robinson]. You couldn’t ask anything more from them. It was a full squad performance.”

Next up for England is Wales, who are second with two bonus-point wins this tournament.

“We have got to make sure we keep an eye on what is to come,” Middleton added. “As well as staying in the moment and making sure there is a real perspective about how we play.”


Sarah Rendell at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Women’s Six Nations 2023: team-by-team guide
England, fired by a desire to atone for World Cup heartache, are again favourites but a new-look France will challenge them

Sarah Rendell

22, Mar, 2023 @12:12 PM

Article image
Simon Middleton has England selection headache for Women’s Six Nations final
The England captain, Sarah Hunter, made her first appearance in more than a year as England thrashed Italy 67-3 and the head coach, Simon Middleton, said: ‘We have players who are really explosive’

Ian Malin

11, Apr, 2021 @1:36 PM

Article image
Lydia Thompson’s hat-trick completes England’s 12-try thrashing of Italy
The Women’s Six Nations game ended Italy 0-74 England with the visitors having scored 12 tries in Parma

Ian Malin

03, Apr, 2022 @5:01 PM

Article image
The 2022 women’s Six Nations can be the start of something special | Ali Donnelly
England will be big favourites but the tournament can flourish in a separate window from the men’s competition

Ali Donnelly

24, Mar, 2022 @8:00 AM

Article image
Italy 0-74 England: Women’s Six Nations – as it happened
Lydia Thompson scored a hat-trick has England dominated from start to finish against Italy

Will Unwin

03, Apr, 2022 @3:49 PM

Article image
England 68-5 Italy: Women’s Six Nations – as it happened
Abby Dow ran in four tries in England’s dominant 12-try victory against Italy that sent them top of the table after two matches

Luke McLaughlin

02, Apr, 2023 @4:22 PM

Article image
A ruinous record? England, Ireland and a fight for Six Nations credibility
Many are predicting a record margin of victory for Simon Middleton’s Red Roses against hosts in the Women’s Six Nations at Musgrave Park in Cork

Sarah Rendell

21, Apr, 2023 @6:00 PM

Article image
Italy 3-67 England: Women’s Six Nations 2021 – as it happened
England recovered from a slow start to run in nine tries and claim their place in the final play-off for the trophy

Sarah Rendell

10, Apr, 2021 @3:32 PM

Article image
Abby Dow shows her class as England overpower Wales in Six Nations
England remain on course for a Women’s Six Nations grand slam after scoring nine tries in their impressive 59-3 victory against Wales

Ian Malin

15, Apr, 2023 @3:53 PM

Article image
Women’s Six Nations: England, Ireland and Scotland win on finals day!
England defend their title after 10-6 defeat of France. Ireland beat Italy to third and Scotland hold off Wales.

Sarah Rendell

24, Apr, 2021 @6:05 PM