Catch up on the highlights from the championship’s opening fixtures
The best of Women’s Six Nations round one
The 2022 Women’s Six Nations is underway and the benefits of it being in a standalone window are clear to see in terms of exposure and visibility.
The other bonus of the championship kicking off a few weeks later than the men’s tournament is the weather – and the sun was shining in Edinburgh, Dublin and Grenoble for the first-round matches.
Defending champions England, the world’s No 1 side, started their campaign with a comfortable 57-5 victory over Scotland at the DAM Health stadium, running in nine tries.
They have now won 19 straight Tests – a better run than England’s men have ever achieved – but they will need to win all their remaining championship matches to equal the feat of the women’s team from 1992-97.
The pick of the first-half scores came from Abby Dow in the 25th minute. She earned the moniker ‘Abby Wow’ in the autumn for her try-scoring feats and she showed similar skills here.
A soft pop pass from Emily Scarratt gave Dow possession close to the touchline on the 10m and the winger cut inside brilliantly to get away from Scotland’s defence, then faded back out to escape the home side’s covering defenders and touch down.
The other highlight of the opening 40 was tighthead prop Sarah Bern showing the skills of a centre as she broke into space, dummied, drew defenders and then offloaded to Leanne Infante for a simple run-in just before the break.
Marlie Packer was Player of the Match. She scored a hat-trick on the occasion of her 80th cap but just as impressive were her defensive feats. She was at her physical best in defence and also snaffled a few important turnovers.
Game two of round one was a far tighter affair, an impressive second-half performance from Wales securing a 27-19 win over Ireland in Dublin.
They were trailing 14-5 at the break and 19-10 at the 60-minute mark, but Wales rallied to score 17 unanswered points in the final quarter, taking full advantage of an Eimear Considine yellow card in the 72nd minute (the result of cumulative offences by the hosts).
It was quite a comeback from Wales after Ireland had looked the more dangerous side in the first half. Wing Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe opened the scoring midway through the first half, showing the skills that have made her such an attacking threat in the sevens game.
Given the ball out wide from a long Stacey Flood pass, she evaded three defenders to score in the corner, albeit that the Welsh will be ruing some poor tackle attempts.
Another highlight of Ireland’s first-half performance was Sam Monaghan’s offloading skills. A couple of deft passes from the second-row stood out, one leading to a try for Linda Djougang, and drew comparisons to former All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams on social media.
The strength of Wales’ game was their rolling maul. Those driving lineouts, either directly or indirectly, were key to their first four tries while the fifth, from Hannah Jones, came off the back of a powerful scrum.
It was two close-range finishes from Donna Rose in the last quarter that proved crucial, the second giving Wales the lead for the first time.
The opening round of this year’s championship concluded in Grenoble, where France beat Italy 39-6.
France may have been the victors but it was Italy’s Beatrice Rigoni who proved the star turn. She said Italy were “ready to rock” before the tournament kicked off and so it proved in this fixture.
The fly-half’s handling skills under pressure from France’s rush defence were superb, putting her team-mates into holes and creating problems for the hosts.
France will have been disappointed with their lack of accuracy and fluidity; there were too many handling errors and turnovers to facilitate any ‘flow’.
Yet their defence stood firm in the face of Italy’s all-court attacking game and when they were able to work the ball through the phases they got over the line.
They saved their best for the last five minutes when they ran in two tries. First, Emilie Boulard left Italian defenders flailing as she surged towards and over the line from the 10m and then Laure Sanus’s offload released Chloe Jacquet to score the fifth try.
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