Source: 6 Nations

England turn the heat up

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England v Ireland

Result: England 88 Ireland 10
Player of the Match: Ellie Kildunne (third time this series!)

Your homework for this evening: write out a detailed game-plan for beating the Red Roses (maximum 500 words).

The performance all England had been hoping for took place in front of a big crowd at Twickenham. Playing with high levels of skill and intent, they gave a young Irish side a walloping, failing to reach their highest ever total by just one point.

The few crumbs of comfort for the Irish were a penalty (Dannah O’Brien), the first points against England for five years; then, even better, a penalty try awarded after the replacement props twice got the better of their English counterparts in the second half.

For the rest, the Red Roses put on a show to rouse their supporters to paroxysms of delight. After O’Brien had thumped three early kicks into the English half, the home pack sorted out a scrum and dominated play.

On seven minutes Abby Dow had the first try of her hat-trick (it might have been four, but for a loss of control as she dived over under pressure). The passing skills that led to her chance were to characterise the whole game. 5-0

A moment later Mo Hunt made a deadly snipe, but couldn’t quite link up. A phase or two followed, then she made a second which succeeded. 12-0

A third try came to Meg Jones after a move from a line-out saw Dow thrust through midfield. Jones waltzed through tackles to the line. 19-0

Ireland showed their limitations when Lauren Delany knocked on a deep kick. In stark contrast Ellie Kildunne spotted where to place a kick; it landed just beyond a defender and put the visitors on the back foot again.

O’Brien learned the troubles that even a good-looking grubber can cause. Kildunne had to double back to field it, but set off on a long mazy run. She lost the ball backwards as she was held, but England regathered and fed the ball wide. There, at outside-centre was Zoe Aldcroft. She gave her Emily Scarratt impression, bypassing defenders to reach the line from way out. That was the bonus-point up in the first quarter. 26-0

Now at last the Irish found some co-ordination. When offered a penalty in front, O’Brien potted the three points. It was to be only a momentary respite. 26-3

On the half-hour an immaculate catch-and-drive led to another telling move, Heard and Aitchison combining well to send Kildunne in for her seventh of the campaign. 33-3

The pack had had enough of the backs stealing their limelight. They drove to the line, but the Irish defence did well to halt Hannah Botterman on the line.

England’s day was clouded by an ankle injury to Lark Atkin-Davies. She was helped off the field. The first prognosis is not hopeful for next week.

The next moment the ball was whipped out to Dow by the touchline. Somehow she fended off three tacklers to swoop over the line. But the TMO spotted a clear loss of contact with the ball as she dived. Two minutes later she was invited to set the matter straight. Lovely handling gave her a much simpler run to the line.

Cold stats: missed tackles – England 2, Ireland 35

Half-time 38-3

It was the general feeling that England had had their best half in a long while. Now they had to prove they could repeat the medicine.

A further fifty points were the answer; the Irish were rushed off their feet. Handling, decision-making and recycling reached high standards.

Even Mo Hunt’s box-kicks worked like a charm. The next one was fumbled. England moved the ball so well that Jess Breach was able to turn Aoife Dalton to stone and round her for her first try of the day. 43-3

After Sadia Kabeya showed her skill and strength to reach to the line (50-3 – the first time this campaign any side has reached a half-century), Ireland had a moment to remember. Changes had been made; one of the most important being the arrival of Clíodhna Moloney, who stirred the troops to action. Suddenly, the English pack wilted twice at set-scrums. A following maul saw Lucy Packer shown yellow for an offence at the breakdown; familiar territory for the team. Worse still, Aurélie Groizeleau ran under the posts to give the Irish their first try. 50-10

In Packer’s absence Aitchison switched to 9, where she has played with distinction in 7s, and Jones to 10, where she often played for Wasps. The machine kept whirring contentedly. O’Brien’s searching kicks weren’t helped by disorganised follow-ups by the rest of the team. The England back three, Kildunne above all, went on reaping the advantages this gave them.

When the Irish backs did win ball, they tended to be too closely aligned, not stretching the cover defence.

The tries now rolled in. Breach enjoyed some luck when an Aitchison grubber deflected of Aoife Wafer into her hands.

By the end Kildunne had reached a remarkable nine in the tournament, and Dow had her hat-trick too. Maddie Feaunati was the last to cross.

Still, that leaves the many (exclusively male?) Social media critics pointing the finger of scorn at the competition. But all too often they fail to notice that this has been the position since the 6N started at the turn of a new century. Another of their beefs: the place-kicking. Today Aitchison potted seven out of nine.

Over 48,000 were still prepared to come and watch, including many Irish.

Teams

England:

15 Ellie Kildunne 14 Abby Dow 13 Meg Jones 12 Tatyana Heard 11 Jess Breach 10 Holly Aitchison 9 Mo Hunt 1 Hannah Botterman 2 Lark Atkin-Davies 3 Maud Muir 4 Morwenna Talling 5 Zoe Aldcroft 6 Sadia Kabeya 7 Marlie Packer (captain) Sadia Kabeya 8 Alex Matthews

16 Connie Powell 17 Mackenzie Carson 18 Kelsey Clifford 19 Morwenna Talling 20 Maddie Feaunati 21 Lucy Packer 22 Emily Scarratt 23 Sydney Gregson

Note: there was a late change, as Rosie Galligan (4) injured a thumb, to be replaced by Morwenna Talling; *Lizzie Hanlon came on to the bench; she played the last few minutes.
*uncapped

Ireland

15 Lauren Delany 14 Katie Corrigan 13 Eve Higgins 12 Aoife Dalton 11 Béibhinn Parsons 10 Dannah O’Brien 9 Aoibheann Reilly 1 Linda Djougang 2 Neve Jones 3 Christy Haney 4 Dorothy Wall 5 Hannah O’Connor 6 Aoife Wafer 7 Edel McMahon (captain) 8 Brittany Hogan

16 Clíodhna Moloney 17 Niamh O’Dowd 18 Sadhbh McGrath 19 Fiona Tuite 20 Shannon Ikahihifo 21 Molly Scuffil-McCabe 22 Enya Breen 23 Méabh Deely

Scorers:

England: Tries: Dow 3, Hunt, Jones 2, Aldcroft, Kildunne 3, Breach 2, Kabeya, Feaunati

Conversions: Aitchison 9

Ireland: Penalty try; Penalty: O’Brien

Officials

Referee: Aurélie Groizeleau (FFR)
ARs: Doriane Domenjo (FFR), Adele Robert (Belgium)
TMO: Rachel Horton (SARU)

Attendance: 48,778

Afterthoughts

Many congratulations to the RFU for deciding to use HQ for this match.

The statisticians’ subheading ‘assist’ ought to disappear forthwith from match stats. The latest example of its misuse was the wonderful piece of footwork by Meg Jones in the previous game, to produce Ellie Kildunne’s try by the right post. But Jones was merely exploiting a chance offered by Holly Aitchison’s insightful grubber through midfield – not to mention the hard work put in by the forwards in the first place. The person awarded the ‘assist’ happens merely to be the last player to touch the ball before the try-scorer. In itself, quite irrelevant. The term has crept into football; there’s even less use for it in rugby, the ultimate team game.

Only eight Wasps players on the field today; Macdonald and Monaghan both missing.

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