Source: Worcester Valkyries

England v Barbarians – A Chance missed – Twickenham 2 June 2019

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When you play against the Barbarians, what style of rugby should you adopt? Well, the Red Roses chose another one.

Five of their six tries were scored by forwards, Lark Davies winning the Player of the Match award with a hat-trick.

They had understandable reasons: an imminent Super Series in San Diego against the four other top nations, a string of injuries, and those professional contracts that don’t always free up the player’s mind to offer an ultra-open game.

Two outstanding wingers, Lydia Thompson and Kelly Smith, managed one try between them, a sad reflection on the team’s ability to create space on the outside.

It was a very warm day at HQ as 17,902 eager spectators sat waiting for the Roses to burst into the style of play they had offered the last time they graced the stadium. Their first attacking move was a forward drive – try to Davies. 7-0

Hannah Botterman got her name on the scoreboards after a series of damaging drives to the line. 14-0

On the half-hour Poppy Cleall’s try by the posts was created by a break from the base of a ruck by Zoe Aldcroft who added a fine off-load. 21-0

Davies was the beneficiary of another series of pick-and-goes to complete the first 40 minutes.

Half-time: 28-0

Smith was unfortunate not to gain her opening try when a long miss-pass slid slightly forward. But it was symptomatic of England’s play that this was one of very few attempts to put the wingers away. More than once Lagi Tuima found herself having to offer Smith a switch-pass inside, so little room had England created in midfield.

The Barbarians had reasons for boasting 946 caps between them – this is a total England could claim two seasons ago – they broke their duck early in the second half. A fine off-load by Sene Naoupu allowed Milly Wood to cross under the posts. 28-14

Later on a cunning 2-millimetre pass from Nolli Waterman to Fiao’o Fa’amausili gave her the space to run through to the line. 28-14

England’s reaction was to return to the tried and tested: a rolling maul finished with Davies claiming her third try. 35-14

It took her side all of 68 minutes to create the first legal offering for the wide backs. Tuima’s long pass found Smith who created the winger’s perfect finish, a lean-in to check the last defender, then the sprint home on the outside.

Such a pity this couldn’t have happened much earlier.

Result: 40-14

Summary

So severe have the Red Roses’ injuries been that the on-field squad differed in two respects from the programme version: no Vickii Cornborough, no Mo Hunt; even Simon Middleton’s team announced three days before had Hunt on the bench.

This must have an effect on a squad; no player wants to find herself adding to the list of non-availabilities, and the management must have its fingers permanently crossed, hoping that a team as close as possible to full strength will muster for the flight across the pond at the end of the month. When the skipper was replaced by Ro Burnfield before the break for a head injury assessment, you had to hope she would be not added to the injury list.

This was not a capped match, so sadly Amber Reed is still awaiting her 50th, after a delay that goes back a long time.

Zoe Harrison had a fine day at outside-half: her place and touch-kicks were well nigh faultless; her grubber failed by fractions to have the desired effect.

The game didn’t often leap into life. Frankly, this was not the sparkling advertisement for women’s rugby we had hoped for. England only rarely opened out convincingly, but credit for that is due to the Baa-baas who were facing by far the severest challenge of their four outings thus far. Now to see them take on all the other Six Nations’ sides.

Teams:

England Barbarians
15 McKenna Waterman
14 Thompson Joyce
13 Tuima Wood
12 Reed Naoupu
11 Smith Derk
10 Harrison Snowsill
9 Riley Sue
1 Botterman Clark
2 Davies  Fa’amausili
3 Bern  Te Ohaere-Fox
4 Aldcroft Farmer
5 Scott A  Dennison
6 Cleall P Lavea
7 Brown  J Molloy
9 Riley Sue
8 Hunter Itunu
16 Nielson Kerr
17 Perry Keates
18 Edwards Mignot
19 Galligan Taylor
20 Burnfield Gulliver
21 Macdonald Casey
22 Heard Large
23 Williams Ahki

Referee: Sara Cox