Abby Dow shows her class as England overpower Wales in Six Nations

  • Wales 3-59 England
  • Red Roses on course for grand slam after nine-try victory

England teams over the years have not had a happy time at Cardiff Arms Park and Wales did their best to make this an uncomfortable afternoon. On Grand National day the hosts gave their opponents a run for their money in the first half before the floodgates opened after the interval and it is England who are galloping toward another grand slam.

Abby Dow, who broke her leg in this fixture last year, scored the best of their nine tries, a spectacular effort in the last move before the break. England, that World Cup final defeat last autumn a distant memory, are in a ruthless mood. They have scored 31 tries in this Six Nations and Ireland will not look forward to their visit to Musgrave Park next Saturday.

England made nonsense of the suggestion that they are a one-dimensional side with a big rolling maul. They have the power but also plenty more besides, and when the game threatened to end chaotically after Simon Middleton’s side found themselves with 13 players on the field thanks to two yellow cards, England simply turned to their replacements to submerge Wales under a barrage of tries.

The Red Roses have overcome the obstacle of losing a number of key players, including two of their greatest in the retired Sarah Hunter and the injured Emily Scarratt. Wales, with their own squad of professionals, were unbeaten and full of hope that they could repeat their 2009 victory over England but there were no similar celebrations here, just another sobering experience.

In the bright, spring sunshine Wales took the game to England. Keira Bevan landed a penalty, the least Wales deserved for their early pressure, only for the wing Lowri Norkett to make a horrible error from the restart, knocking on close to her own line.

Holly Aitchison scores England’s fourth try against Wales.
Holly Aitchison scores England’s fourth try against Wales. Photograph: Catherine Ivill/RFU/The RFU Collection/Getty Images

England, though, failed to take advantage and, with Wales’s 19-year-old tight-head prop Sisilia Tuipulotu putting the visitors’ scrum under immense pressure, it was clear the visitors were in for their first real test of this tournament.

England continued to make handling mistakes in the face of stifling defence and the game was 26 minutes old before it was breached. Dow found some space on the left wing and the ball was recycled for Lucy Packer to cleverly twist and turn and crash over the line.

The kicking of conversions in the women’s game had come under scrutiny during the week but Emma Sing, making a first international start, had no trouble landing her effort from close to the touchline.

The tide slowly turned. England’s pack rumbled forwards from a lineout before the fly-half Holly Aitchison’s clever kick allowed Tatyana Heard to score her side’s second try. England then took the game away from Wales in the final seconds of the first half with a stunning try. They elected to take a tap penalty, moved the ball quickly and Aitchison flung a huge pass to Dow who, just inside the Wales half, eluded five would-be tacklers down the left touchline before scoring a try that will not be bettered in this tournament.

Ireland slumped to a third successive defeat in this year’s Women’s Six Nations after losing 24-7 to fellow strugglers Italy in Parma. Both nations came into the match at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi having lost their opening two matches but it was Italy who emerged victorious thanks to tries from Alyssa D’Inca (two) and Sofia Stefan.

The hosts broke the stalemate in the 28th minute after some quality team play down the left wing saw Beatrice Rigoni offload to scrum-half Stefan who went over for a try that was converted by Michela Sillari. 

That score was all that separated the teams at half-time, with Ireland failing to make the most of their early opportunities to trail 7-0 at the interval. However, Italy were quickly out of the blocks at the start of the second half and within two minutes had doubled their advantage as D’Inca finished off a well-worked move.

Ireland were awarded a penalty try midway through the second half to give them a glimmer of hope at 17-7 but D’Inca put the game to bed late on with her second try of the match, leaving the visitors propping up the Six Nations table. PA Media

Wales had enjoyed more possession but were 16 points down at the break. Things got worse for them early in the second half when Tuipulotu went down clutching her left shoulder, but the teenager played on only for Wales’s pain to continue. From a lineout England moved the ball wide and Aitchison, ignoring a two-woman overlap, cruised over thanks to a nice change of speed, ensuring a try bonus point.

England’s momentum was now unstoppable. Sarah Bern’s jinking run and clever offload gave Jess Breach, quiet until now, the chance to run in a fifth try before the replacement Ellie Kildunne, moments after replacing Sing, got on the scoresheet as a defensive red sea parted.

  • 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.

The last thing Wales wanted was to face the onslaught with 14 players but when Kate Williams was penalised for a high tackle on Marlie Packer, the replacement back-rower was sent to the sin-bin. England’s replacement props Maud Muir and Hannah Botterman made Wales pay with short-range tries.

It was then England’s turn to see yellow when Marlie Packer and the replacement hooker May Campbell joined Williams in the sin-bin for high tackles. England, however, shrugged off the problem of playing with 13 and losing their captain.

Another replacement, Sarah Beckett, also shrugged off the frustration of missing out on a World Cup spot with a bullocking run and England’s final try.

Marlie Packer, who has been in superlative form in this Six Nations, said: “We went down to 13 but the test of character within the group was really good.

“There are only 10 players who played in the World Cup final and I am really proud of the new players in this group.”


Ian Malin

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
England and Jess Breach power past Wales to set up Six Nations finale
Jess Breach and Lark Davies scored two tries each as England beat Wales 58-5 but an injury to Abby Dow cast a shadow over their victory

Luke McLaughlin at Kingsholm

09, Apr, 2022 @6:33 PM

Article image
England 38-33 France: Women’s Six Nations player ratings
Sadia Kabeya was immense but it was a difficult day for her England teammates Mackenzie Carson and Maud Muir

Daniel Gallan

29, Apr, 2023 @5:30 PM

Article image
Alex Matthews’ double helps England ease to Six Nations win in Ireland
England ran in eight tries in their 48-0 victory in the Six Nations but Marlie Packer had to come off with an injury in the first half

Ian Malin

22, Apr, 2023 @3:33 PM

Article image
England clinch Women’s Six Nations grand slam in epic finale against France
England were 33-0 ahead at half-time but France fought back in the Women’s Six Nations decider at Twickenham, Simon Middleton’s Red Roses eventually winning 38-33 and clinching the grand slam

Robert Kitson at Twickenham

29, Apr, 2023 @2:17 PM

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
Abby Dow at the double as England thrash Italy in Women’s Six Nations
England racked up nine tries in their 67-3 victory over Italy in Parma, ensuring a place in the Women’s Six Nations final

Ian Malin

10, Apr, 2021 @3:29 PM

Article image
Wales 3-59 England: Women’s Six Nations – as it happened
England, inspired by Abby Dow, outclassed their rivals, leaving them on course for a grand slam

Sarah Rendell

15, Apr, 2023 @4:08 PM

Article image
Packer’s gritty leadership shores up nervy England at just the right time | Sarah Rendell
Red Roses captain pivotal in quelling French revival and winning her first Six Nations title since taking the role

Sarah Rendell at Twickenham

29, Apr, 2023 @3:40 PM

Article image
England 58-5 Wales: Women’s Six Nations – as it happened
England continue their Women’s Six Nations title defence with a 10-try rout of a strong and stoic Wales team. The victory was also the Red Roses’ 21st consecutive win.

Sarah Rendell

09, Apr, 2022 @6:36 PM

Article image
Marlie Packer scores hat-trick of tries as England overpower Scotland
England dominated Scotland as seven players took to the scoreboard to leave the final result at Scotland 5-57 England

Daniel Gallan

26, Mar, 2022 @3:09 PM