England's pack drill the Netherlands : RUGBY UNION

Stuart Alexander enjoys a game that exploits a different dimension
Click to follow
The Independent Online
A big, marauding England pack harried a brave Dutch side in the watery winter sunshine at Wasps yesterday afternoon, notching up the England women's third consecutive win, 30-5, over the Netherlands. It was interesting to watch, not riveting, but with four new caps and a much reorganised back division to the one who won the world championship in April in Edinburgh, it also served notice on the squad strength to face Wales at Sale on 12 February.

It is the dimensions of the game that make it different for women. The pitch is probably a little too long and wide, so less kicks make it to touch. Kicking anyway is more of a problem, and there are no attempts at penalties from the half-way line. Despite that, the stand-off, Deidre Mills, managed a brace each of penalties and conversions as well as some probing kicks downfield. All of which means that the ball is kept more in play, the women tend to stand on their feet at the breakdown more than men and nearly all the penalties are for offside.

The pace is slower, the scale is smaller and there is little likelihood that women would have thought up this game for themselves, but pounding the turf where the England prop, Jeff Probyn, has made such a spectacle of himself, there was all the determination and commitment of the game in general and some noteworthy personal skills. The England coach, Steve Jew, was full of praise for the way his team had marshalled themselves.

The England front row gave their counterparts a torrid time, the loose head, Jane Mangham, lifting Margret Hibma off her feet. The second row had too much shove and the back row not just the edge in loose play but, in the captain and No 8, Gill Burns, a principal jumper in the middle of the line. She also scored a push-over try.

The most destructive midfield runner was Jacqui Edwards, who barged her way through for the second of England's four tries. But one of the quickest was the Netherlands left wing, Ginny Hamilton, who scored their only try. Impressive, too, in the orange jersey was the open-side flanker, Mariette Schmutzer, and the full-back, Charlotte de Greef, who hardly put a foot wrong.

Another full-back caught the eye, the New Zealand first-choice scrum-half, Anna Richards, playing for the Nomads in the warm-up game against England A. She put in a high-impact tackle that had everybody wincing, and warmly applauding.

England: Tries Coles, Edwards, Burns, Stirrup; Conversions Mills 2; Penalties Mills 2. The Netherlands: Try Hamilton.

ENGLAND: H Hulme (Clifton); J Molyneux (Waterloo), J Edwards (Blackheath), A Wallace (Leeds), A Coles (Saracens); D Mills (Richmond), S Appleby (Novacastrians); J Mangham (Waterloo); N Ponsford (Clifton), E Scourfield (Leeds), S Wenn (Wasps), H Stirrup (Wasps); J Chambers (Richmond), G Burns, (Waterloo, capt), H Clayton (Waterloo). Replacement: T Sivek (Richmond) for Wenn, 26.

THE NETHERLANDS: C de Greef (Elephants); K Abbenbroek (RUS), O de Bruin (URC), H van Meens (URC), G Hamilton (Lady Bears); E Lichtenbeld (URC), B Terpstra (Thor); L Schoone (Diok), S Veltkamp (AAC), M Hibma (Thor), M van den Hoger (Thor), A-M van Wavere n (Thor, capt), D van den Berg (URC), M Veldscholten (URC), M Schmutzer (BRC). Replacement: L van Luik (Thor) for Schmutzer, 79.

Referee: J Fleming (Edinburgh).

n A 62nd-minute try from the scrum-half, Sandra Williamson, gained Scotland a first victory, 5-0, over Wales in a women's international at the Brewery Field, Bridgend, yesterday.

Comments