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Women’s Six Nations: England beat Wales 66-7 to maintain Grand Slam charge

Women’s Six Nations: Poppy Cleall scores hat-trick as England thrash Wales
Women’s Six Nations
England: (24) 66
Tries: Cleall 3, Daley-McLean, Fleetwood, Millar-Mills, Cokayne, Aldcroft, Botterman, McKenna Cons: Scarratt 7
Wales: (0) 7
Tries: Penalty try

England are one win away from a second successive Grand Slam after a Poppy Cleall hat-trick helped them power past Wales in front of a record Twickenham Stoop crowd.

Katy Daley-McLean’s superb solo score was the pick of England’s 10 tries.

Amy Cokayne crossed on her 50th cap and Vicky Fleetwood, Harriet Millar-Mills, Zoe Aldcroft, Hannah Botterman and Sarah McKenna also touched down.

Wales were awarded a penalty try but remain without a win this year.

The crowd of 10,974 is a record for an England women ticketed home game outside of a World Cup, surpassing the record of 10,545 set at Exeter’s Sandy Park in the 2019 Six Nations.

England’s win means Simon Middleton’s side have secured the Triple Crown but they must wait to see if and when they can complete the Grand Slam, with next weekend’s game against Italy postponed because of coronavirus.

Their match against Wales was the only Women’s Six Nations fixture of the weekend, with Scotland v France and Ireland v Italy both called off because of the virus.

Daley-McLean shows star quality

Many had written Wales off before kick-off after their 50-0 loss to France in the previous round, but the visitors showed they would not take defeat lying down as they drove England’s forwards back in a scrum in the second minute.

It looked like the Red Roses would respond immediately when Lydia Thompson, in for the injured Jess Breach on the right wing, found a bit of space but she was swiftly barged into touch by Wales defenders.

It was an impressive start from the amateur side but England’s professional forwards eventually got the upper hand, sending lock Cleall over from close range.

The Red Roses relentlessly rampaged on from there, building through phases five metres out until Cleall dived under the posts to score again.

Wales may not have got on the scoreboard, but they dominated another scrum as England’s intensity seemed to drop, an issue Simon Middleton’s side also faced in their third-round victory against Ireland.

Daley-McLean’s try was the standout moment of the first half

Daley-McLean single-handedly brought the game to life and the crowd to its feet as she found a gap in the Welsh defence and covered around 40m, side-stepping Wales full-back Kayleigh Powell to score a memorable try.

Still Wales would not give in and immediately made their way into England’s 22 but an overthrown line-out ended their best chance at points so far.

England continued to lack fluidity in attack and it felt as if they should have scored more tries as half-time approached. Eventually, their driving maul delivered the bonus-point as it rolled over the tryline, with Fleetwood touching the ball down.

England find their flow with six second-half tries

The Red Roses’ attack picked up after the break as England’s 17-year-old full-back Mia Venner came on for her first cap, but it was the forwards who stole the limelight again.

Flanker Millar-Mills, who made her return to England duty at the start of the tournament after 22 months out with knee injuries, jumped through a gap in the Welsh line to score.

Then Cleall picked the ball up from the base of a ruck and ran through Welsh defenders, briefly considering passing the ball inside to Saracens team-mate Botterman before remembering the hat-trick was on and diving across the line.

The lock came close to the tryline again, but this time was brought down and instead sent over Cokayne, who was making her 50th England appearance aged just 23.

Then it was Wales’ chance to get on the scoreboard. Venner’s kick was charged down and Wales centre Kerin Lake gave chase but was tackled off the ball by Mo Hunt before she could score, leading to a penalty try for Wales and a yellow card for Hunt.

The numerical advantage did nothing to help the visitors, though, and they were overwhelmed by the brute force of Aldcroft and Botterman, who both barged their way across the tryline in quick succession to bring England’s total to nine tries.

Then wing Sarah McKenna showed impressive footwork to negotiate her way round Welsh defenders and add England’s 10th, sealing their biggest victory in this year’s Six Nations so far.

Zoe Aldcroft signs a match programme as England celebrated with the crowd at the end of the match

‘We wanted to put on a show’ – what they said

England captain Emily Scarratt: “It’s awesome playing here in front of this many people. We love playing in front of crowds like this.

“It’s the last game of the Six Nations for us at the moment, so we wanted to put on a show, and rectify a few things we were frustrated with after the Ireland game. We set ourselves really high standards, and when you fall short of those it’s frustrating. We got back on the horse as it were, and the scoreboard probably speaks for itself. There were some fantastic tries right across the board.”

Wales skipper Siwan Lillicrap: “We have got to take some of the positive stuff out of what we displayed today. England are an outstanding side but definitely there was some really good stuff from us as well.

“We did pressure them at times. We’re at the beginning of a building stage, we’ve got lots of youngsters in the squad and we’ve got to stick with it, keep developing, keep learning. We want to play the best sides in the world and we’ll learn more from that than anything else.”

Line-ups

England: Scott; Thompson, Scarratt (capt), Reed, McKenna; Daley-Mclean, Riley; Cornborough, Cokayne, Brown, Cleall, Aldcroft, Millar-Mills, Fleetwood, Beckett.

Replacements: Kerr, Botterman, Bern, Hunter, Harper, Hunt, Harrison, Venner.

Wales: Powell; Caitlin Lewis, Hannah Jones, Lake, Neumann; Wilkins, Bevan; Pyrs, Kelsey Jones, Hale, Evans, John, Butchers, Bethan Lewis, Lillicrap (capt).

Replacements: Kelly, Hope, Ruth Lewis, Crabb, Lock, Ffion Lewis, Bluck, George

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/rugby-union/51783262

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