A hat-trick from Helena Rowland helped England to a 73-7 victory over Wales at Ashton Gate, meaning the Red Roses will be heading to the next World Cup on a run of 25 games in a row. They are the first international rugby team to win 25 in a row – the perfect springboard to kick off their World Cup campaign on October 8 against Fiji.
A key moment in the match came around the 70th minute when the Red Roses were down to 14 players. Player of the match Rowland was hung up on what was described as a precautionary measure and could not be replaced as England had already emptied their bench.
“She started having cramps,” head coach Simon Middleton said after the game. “The last thing we want is for the cramp to turn into a tear. Doctors were concerned. Yes, it gives you a chance to watch a 14 player scenario and get Holly [Aitchison] sometimes. We wanted to watch Holly as 13 and what we didn’t want to do was disrespect Wales in any way.
“We would never do that. I’d rather have that finger pointed at me than leave my 12 on the pitch and the cramp turns to tears. We were never going to take any chances on that.
After a minute’s silence for Queen Elizabeth II, the match began. England had good possession early on but the lineout was sloppy from five yards which gave Wales a foothold. The visitors won another penalty and fly-half Elinor Snowsill showed his intent with a kick into the corner.
However, the tides quickly turned with England recovering the ball from the Welsh line-up and running it up the pitch. In the 22, Helena Rowland ran a nice line to get around two defenders to smash which had the crowd of 11,961 on their feet. Rowland was denied a try due to obstruction minutes later after a TMO check.
Wales were next to strike with a driving maul seeing Gwen Crabb reap the rewards, Snowsill added the extras to level the game after 15 minutes. England fought back quickly with Lydia Thompson working a play straight from the training ground to tear through the Welsh defence, eventually winning a penalty. The ball was sent from the maul to Emily Scarratt who pounced on England’s second try. The hosts’ driving maul then came into play, but Alex Callender illegally shot it and was sent to the trash. The hosts took full advantage of being a player with Marlie Packer crashing into the back of a maul.
The fourth Englishman of the evening managed a penalty try. There was concern for the team shortly before as Lark Davies was replaced by Amy Cokayne and Middleton had no conclusive answer on Davies’ injury after the game. Ellie Kildunne concluded the first half with the Red Roses fifth as England outnumbered Wales on the wing.
The Red Roses continued to score immediately after the break with Cokayne moving from a maul at the wheel and the replacement hooker was instrumental on their next try, executing an excellent line to feed Rowland, who sprinted in. Scarratt filed his complaints after his conversion was accused by Callender but referee Aurélie Groizeleau was happy.
England continued to hammer the Welsh line and found another score through Scarratt. A skillful team try followed with substitutes like Claudia MacDonald, Holly Aitchison and Hannah Botterman who managed to pass Rowland for his hat-trick. Botterman and Zoe Aldcroft completed an impressive display with their fire firmly lit to reclaim the trophy they hadn’t had in their hands since 2014.
Wales will also be on a plane to New Zealand for the World Cup and captain Hannah Jones said: “Now we have some time to hurt, to reflect. We have to get up, there is a quick turnaround.
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