Reigning world champions England Women were unable to get their Six Nations campaign off to a winning start with a tough opening 13-0 defeat to Wales at Swansea RFC today.
A new look England side, fielding seven new caps in the match day squad, struggled to cope with a much more fluid Welsh team who were lifted by a strong home crowd. For Wales, who took the win with two tries and a penalty, it was their first victory against their old rivals since 2009.
In a tough opening half, England and Wales remained pointless until just moments before the half-time whistle, with Wales then taking a 3-0 lead with a Laurie Harries penalty.
England started the match well with all the pressure in Wales’ 22 and debutant Sydney Gregson went close. Centre Megan Goddard then had a chance to put England ahead with a penalty but couldn’t make the distance.
The tables then turned in Wales’ favour with the home side looking more settled in their patterns of play and they threatened England’s line on a handful of occasions.
Wing Ruth Laybourn came near to shifting the run of play with a great charge on the right wing but Wales were dogged in defence and an impressive try saving tackle took Laybourn out of play. Wales then had the final word with Harries making good her second attempt at goal with the 45th minute penalty.
Wales upped the ante after the restart with a morale boosting 51 minute try courtesy of Catrin Edwards. Choosing not to kick at goal, Wales took control and a well worked line-out saw a strong forwards effort go close to scoring. The home side then took the ball out-wide before it came back to the forwards who battered England’s defensive line, and in the end prop Edwards muscled her way over.
England had a chance at goal but Goddard couldn’t make the kick count and matters then worsened for England when experienced head and world cup winner La Toya Mason was stretchered off the field. The scrum half was replaced by another debutant Bianca Blackburn.
England’s determination did not falter and Wales stayed pinned back in their half for much of the last quarter but in the end Wales once again had the final word with wing Harries making the most of a superb Elinor Snowsill cross kick to run in an injury time try.
Acting England Head Coach Nicola Ponsford said: “We are really disappointed with result but the first thing I must say is full credit to Wales. That is one of the best Wales performances I have seen. For us, we didn’t perform the way we wanted to as they didn’t allow us to create the platform we needed. That stopped us attacking the way we wanted to. There were, however, a lot of positives to take from the game. Our defence was pretty good and we held Wales to 8-0 for a large amount of the game. The commitment and determination the players showed was impressive. We are a young side and we are building – we know what we need to work on ahead of next week’s game against Italy.”
15 Kay Wilson (Thurrock), 14 Ruth Laybourn (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), 13 Abigail Brown (Bristol), 12 Megan Goddard (Worcester), 11 Sydney Gregson (Bristol), 10 Ceri Large (Worcester), 9 La Toya Mason (VC) (Wasps), 1 Rochelle Clark (Worcester), 2 Emma Croker (Richmond), 3 Laura Keates (Worcester), 4 Tamara Taylor (C) (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), 5 Rowena Burnfield (Richmond), 6 Hannah Field (Richmond), 7 Hannah Gallagher (Saracens), 8 Alexandra Matthews (Richmond). Replacements: 16 Victoria Fleetwood (Saracens), 17 Victoria Cornborough (Richmond), 18 Justine Lucas (Lichfield), 19 Abbie Scott (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), 20 Harriet Millar-Mills (Waterloo), 21 Bianca Blackburn (Worcester), 22 Lauren Cattell (Saracens), 23 Katie Mason (Bristol).
Substitutions: Millar-Mills for Gallagher (48), Scott for Burnfield (53), Fleetwood for Croker (53), Blackburn for Mason (60), Conborough for Clark, Lucas for Keates, Mason for Laybourn (all 79).
15 Dyddgu Hywel (Pontyclun / Scarlets), 14 Elen Evans (Waterloo / Scarlets), 13 Adi Taviner (Skewen / Ospreys), 12 Gemma Rowland (London Wasps / Dragons), 11 Laurie Harries (Llandaff North/ Blues), 10 Elinor Snowsill (Dragons), 9 Amy Day (Llandaff North / Dragons), 1 Caryl Thomas (Bath Ladies / Scarlets), 2 Carys Phillips (Skewen / Ospreys), 3 Catrin Edwards (Llandaff North / Scarlets), 4 Rebecca Rowe (London Welsh / Dragons), 5 Rachel Taylor (Bristol Ladies / Dragons – Capt), 6 Sian Williams (Worcester / Dragons), 7 Sioned Harries (Whitland / Scarlets), 8 Shona Powell-Hughes (Skewen / Ospreys). Replacements: 16 Amy Lawrence (Skewen / Ospreys), 17 Jenny Davies (Caernarfon / Blues), 18 Amy Evans (Skewen / Ospreys), 19 Jenny Hawkins (Llandaff North / Blues), 20 Melissa Clay (Pencoed / Ospreys), 21 Keira Bevan (Skewen / Ospreys), 22 Robyn Wilkins (Llandaff North / Blues), 23 Kerin Lake (Skewen / Ospreys).
Tries: Edwards, Harries
Referee: Sherry Trumball
Half-time score: Wales 3 England 0
Six Nations playing schedule:
Sunday, February 8, Wales 13 England 0, KO 2.30pm, Swansea RFC,
Sunday, February 15, England v Italy, KO 2.00pm, the Twickenham Stoop, live on englandrugby.com
Friday, February 27, Ireland v England, KO 7.30pm, Asbourne RFC, live stream by IRFU
Friday, March 13, England v Scotland, KO 7.35pm, the Northen Echo Arena, Darlington, live on Sky Sports.
Saturday, March 21, England v France, KO 7.20pm, Twickenham Stadium, live on the BBC Red Button.