The Red Roses were in fine form on Saturday afternoon as they scored a dozen tries, including seven for wing Kay Wilson, against a Scottish side who didn’t register any points.
England got off to a great start, scoring their first try after just three minutes when full-back Danielle Waterman broke the line and a couple of phases later, the ball was spun out wide to Wilson, who dotted down in the corner.
And they scored their second in a very similar fashion, a poor kick from Scotland fielded well by Waterman, who used some nice footwork to break the line again. England got quick ball and passed out wide to lock Harriet Millar-Mills, who made good metres before passing to Wilson. She sped past Scottish full-back Rollie to score her second.
Scotland were nothing if not inventive, using the same ‘tackle only’ technique that the Italian men’s team had employed against England two weeks ago. However, the Red Roses dealt with it well, scrum half Mason composed over the ball, willing to throw passes over loitering Scots’ heads and out to the back-line.
A strong English maul made twenty metres before being hauled down illegally, resulting in a yellow card for Scottish Number 8 Forsyth. From the resulting 5 metre line-out, the Red Roses set up another maul and crashed over, hooker Amy Cokayne coming up with the ball. Emily Scarratt, who was having a tough day with the boot, missed the conversion, but the Red Roses were 15 – 0 up after only 11 minutes.
The Scots weren’t getting much possession, but they also put themselves under pressure when they did have the ball and lost it forwards a couple of times. The English scrum was well on top, partly due to the Scottish scrum being reduced to seven after Forsyth’s yellow card, and Number 8 Sarah Hunter was able to make some good metres off the base and get England onto the front foot.
Another English line-out on the Scottish 5 metre line resulted in their fourth try, another score from a driving maul. There was some controversy initially, as the touch judge ruled that the ball had been held up, but the TMO confirmed that Cokayne had scored and the Red Roses had their bonus point wrapped up after only twenty minutes.
Another Scottish knock-on in their own 22 handed possession back to the Red Roses, who got the ball out to centre Emily Scarratt. She ran a nice hard line, powering her way through a couple of tackles, and was brought down just three metres away from the line. Quick recycling at the ruck saw the ball passed out to the short side and Scarratt put in a lovely flat pass to Waterman, who dived over for England’s fifth try. Scarratt, yet to make a kick in the game, missed the conversions from out wide, but England’s lead was now 25 – 0.
Scotland were really struggling to get any kind of foothold in the game, and when the restart was kicked out on the full, England again punished them. Some lovely offloading from Emily Scott, Sarah Hunter and Wilson saw the Red Roses advance up the pitch at a rate of knots, and with the Scottish defence still trying to catch up, flanker Alex Matthews ran hard, making good metres. The ball came out to centre Amber Reed, who had the vision and the skill to float a beautiful wide pass out to Wilson on the left, who sprinted in to score her hat-trick try.
Five minutes later, Reed threw another gorgeous pass out wide to Scarratt, who popped the ball out to Wilson, who scored her fourth try. England’s lead was now 35 – 0, with seven minutes of the first half still to play.
Scotland really weren’t helping themselves, and as another kick-off failed to go ten metres, they handed back possession once again. However, a few minutes later they got their first real opportunity to attack – breaks from flanker McMillan and then fly half Nelson, who handed off Millar-Mills before getting the ball away to Thomson, who sprinted down the sideline. She was hauled down just a few metres short of the line by the English wingers, who subsequently won the penalty for holding on.
As the half drew to a close, Scotland found themselves pinned in their own 22, the English defence pressuring them. Nelson tried to get a clearing kick away, but it was charged down by Cokayne, who scooped up the bouncing ball and fell over the line for her hat-trick try. The Red Roses had scored at a point a minute in the first half, leading 40 – 0.
The second half continued in much the same way, as another pass from Reed beat the Scottish defender marking Scarratt, who was able to make an outside break. She passed to Wilson, who scored her fifth try and England’s ninth.
Scotland managed to build a few phases and won a penalty just inside the Red Roses’ half. From the resulting line-out, fly half Nelson dribbled a kick through into the try area and Rollie just beat replacement full-back McKenna to the ball. However, the TMO judged that she didn’t manage to get the ball down, and Scotland were denied their first score.
However, they didn’t give up, pounding England’s line with pick and drives. The Red Roses’ defence managed to stay strong, though, and Scotland lost their opportunity when they knocked on and were then penalised for being offside, allowing England to clear their lines.
Again, the Red Roses’ rolling maul was used to good effect, driving the Scots back. Some lovely breaks by second rows Tamara Taylor and Harriet Millar-Mills led England once more into the Scottish 22, before the ball was whipped away to Scarratt and then Wilson, who crossed for her sixth. Scarratt again missed the conversion, but England led 50 – 0.
England were playing well, some lovely running from replacement hooker Vicky Fleetwood, who handed off four players on one run, and Wilson, but errors were starting to creep into their game and the clinical finishing which served them well in the first half was somewhat missing. Handling errors began to take their toll, and Scotland were beginning to sense some weakness in their opponents.
After failing to score for nearly twenty minutes, England got their hands on the ball after a steal at the line-out. Reed delayed the pass to Matthews, who in turn offloaded to Emily Scarratt. She stepped the defence to score, and managed to land her first conversion of the day, making the score 57 – 0.
With less than two minutes remaining, England suddenly came to life, playing some fantastic, skilled rugby. Accurate passing and quick ball from the rucks saw Kay Wilson go over for her seventh try, a record in the Six Nations. Scarratt converted, making the final score 64 – 0 and setting up a Grand Slam-decider against Ireland next week.
POTM: Plenty to choose from in the England team. Both second rows Taylor and Millar-Mills had fine games, as did Kay Wilson, who scored over half of England’s twelve tries. However, centre Amber Reed was the unsung hero of the back-line, her lovely passing and vision key to a number of tries. She also stepped into fly-half well, her kicking game winning valuable territory and settling England down in the second half when Scotland were looking to attack.
England: 64 (40)
Tries: Wilson (7), Cokayne (3), Waterman, Scarratt Cons: Scarratt 2
Scotland: o (0)
Another fine performance from England, another clean sheet. They will surely be happy with their game after a relatively poor performance against Italy two weeks ago.
The sheer speed and intensity of their game was brilliant, with great support play and timely offloads putting the Scottish defence on the back foot. Scrum half La Toya Mason had a much better game this week, her passing crisp and clean and her service quick, thanks in part to the excellent work of the forwards at clearing out the rucks and creating quick ball.
Another who had a much-improved game was fly-half Emily Scott. She looked more confident, and ran the ball more, getting through half-gaps and keeping the Scottish defence from sliding across. However, she still made a few mistakes, going for offloads when it would have been better to go to ground, but she should gain confidence from her performance ahead of next week’s clash with Ireland.
The set piece also went very well, England’s scrum dominant and rock solid, allowing Sarah Hunter to make lots of metres off the back. The line-out has also improved week-on-week, and on Saturday impressed again, particularly defensively; the Red Roses managed to steal a few Scottish balls and disrupt their possession.
The maul, which has been England’s lethal weapon for the past few games, again earned them a couple of tries, but it was dealt with quite well by Scotland overall. Still, it is certainly something Ireland will have to nullify if they want to beat England next week.
The only thing that should worry the Red Roses is the drop in performance midway through the second half. Although this was partly down to replacements coming on and the back-line being rejigged, against top teams they will be punished if they allow themselves to sit back for any period of time. However, they recovered well and, by scoring two late tries, proved their fitness and desire.
Of the replacements, scrum-half Bianca Blackburn impressed, upping the pace and keeping the tired Scottish defence guessing around the ruck. Fleetwood ran hard and was a livewire, handing off defenders left, right and centre.
The Red Roses’ defence wasn’t really tested for any length of time, but it is sure to be next weekend against an Ireland team looking to complete a Grand Slam. England will hope that it stands up to the pressure and will no doubt be working on it in training this week.
For Scotland, after their euphoric win against Wales, this was a comedown to earth. They will want to improve their kick-offs, as too many times they simply handed back possession to England on the half-way line due to kicking too long or short.
However, they certainly improved and their rush defence nearly saw them intercept England’s passing on a few occasions. However, they were never really in the game and struggled to keep hold of the ball for any length of time, knocking-on too often due to impatience.
England travel to Dublin next Friday for a Grand-Slam decider against an Ireland team who haven’t exactly hit top form yet. However, it will certainly be one to watch, and the Red Roses will be hoping that they’re victorious.