Alex Matthews’ double helps England ease to Six Nations win in Ireland

  • Ireland 0-48 England
  • England run in eight tries but Marlie Packer suffers injury

England’s remorseless pursuit of the grand slam continues after another walkover on a blustery day in Cork. The Red Roses are expecting a record-breaking crowd of more than 50,000 at Twickenham next Saturday for another tumultuous occasion against France, who will be gunning for the slam themselves provided they overcome Wales in Grenoble on Sunday.

England, though, are almost certain to be without their captain, Marlie Packer, who had to leave the field with an injured ankle five minutes before the break. Packer had scored one of England’s eight tries and even a squad with this enviable depth of talent will sorely miss the flanker when France come calling.

The Red Roses will also be concerned that in a scruffy game on Musgrave Park’s artificial pitch, they were able to score only three tries after the interval against a side that was defiant but limited and never looked like threatening the English line.

There had been a lot of talk during the week of England perhaps breaking their own points-scoring record in the Six Nations or at least improving on their 69-0 win over Ireland in this fixture last season. The women’s game in Ireland is suffering from internal divisions and of the squad for this game only seven had taken up last year’s offer of professional contracts.

England duly ran up their 23rd successive victory in this competition and this spring have scored 39 tries and 233 points. It may be hard to quibble, but this was the least impressive of their four displays.

Simon Middleton, their head coach, said during the buildup that the Six Nations needed to be more competitive and it continues to be a two-horse race, but England were unable to subdue Ireland.

Abby Dow, the wing who was electrifying against Wales a week ago, hardly had an opportunity to test the defence but the power of the England forwards, with their battering-ram of a rolling maul, is still impressive.

England had racked up 27 points by the interval. Sarah Beckett, the player of the match, touched down after two minutes as the Red Roses put Ireland under some relentless early pressure. Tatyana Heard had scored in every game in this Six Nations and the centre added to her collection when she took a pass from Holly Aitchison to squeeze in at the corner for England’s second try.

The first quarter had been scrappy with play exclusively in Ireland’s half. England eventually cut down their mistakes and moved their gears, Claudia MacDonald giving Ellie Kildunne the chance to cruise in at the other corner. Packer crashed over for a fourth try but Lagi Tuima’s place-kicking in the windy conditions was not good enough, the centre’s fourth conversion attempt particularly woeful.

England’s captain, Marlie Packer, was substituted just before half time with an ankle injury.
England’s captain, Marlie Packer, was substituted just before half time with an ankle injury. Photograph: Catherine Ivill/RFU/Getty Images

Ireland’s struggling scrum was not helped when their powerful loose-head prop, Linda Djougang, was taken off injured although England’s prop Hannah Botterman also had to leave the field moments later. But the departure of Packer, who hobbled off in obvious pain was a major blow for England.

Even Packer’s departure, though, could not change the game, her replacement Morwenna Talling crashing over for a try with her first touch as the England pack drove forward from a lineout. Talling is only 20 but among the best of the young English forwards in this post-Sarah Hunter era.

Packer’s departure seemed to take the wind from England’s sails as Ireland rallied after the break. When vice-captain Zoe Aldcroft was taken off, the replacement centre Amber Reed took over the leadership, but there were no points in the third quarter of the game and England continued to make errors as they forced the game.

Kildunne looked to have scored her second try but Helena Rowland’s pass was judged to have been forward. Reed finally added a sixth try with 10 minutes left after a nice multi-phase move and Alex Matthews scored under the posts and completed the rout by powering over from a scrum, but Middleton will expect much more from his side on Saturday.

Aldcroft was impressive in her 53 minutes on the pitch. She may have been taken off to protect her before the meeting with France and will be favourite to lead England in Packer’s inevitable absence.


Ian Malin

The GuardianTramp

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