Women silence the yobbos

Chris Maume watches an England side not afraid to run the ball - and they still win
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The Independent Online
At last, England provided their public with a display of free running dominance to steamroller Wales into submission, Not the men, though. The women.

The World Cup holders scored eight tries at Welford Road yesterday for a 56-3 victory over a Welsh side lacking nothing in grit but with a huge gap in technique and organisation to make up.

Although the women's game has only been around in an organised form for the past 10 years, the sisters have not been slow to do it for themselves, and there are now 7,000 players at more than 200 clubs in England alone, with two national divisions and a new club starting up nearly every week. Yesterday's match was the second of the inaugural Home Nations' Championship, which expands to five nations next season.

There was a tiny contingent yesterday, though, apparently determined to illustrate what the women are up against. In a crowd of 1,500, the back-row yobbos stood out as if they were plugged into the Tannoy, and their raucous swing lows soon gave way to more primitive urges, with cries of "Come on, Fatty!" to the player putting in at the line-out. And when the Welsh scrum-half, Bess Evans, had to change her tattered shirt on the touchline, they were in little boys' heaven. After the interval they were gone.

That was probably because the game was neither farce nor freak show. Like the men, England's women have been criticised for excessive pragmatism, and this match was won by the pack's overwhelming superiority, which allowed their cohesion and discipline (they spent part of last week at an Army camp near Reading) to exert an unshakeable grip.

The first try came from Gill Burns, the No 8 and captain, after 11 minutes and there were another three before the interval. The centres Andrea Wallace and Julie Twigg - one of the first code switchers, with five League caps - ran the show, with stand-off Giselle Prangnell pinning the Welsh back with the boot.

A brilliant try on her debut by Twigg after an interception on the half- way line made it 26-0 by half-time once Prangnell had converted, and the second half was more of the same - Welsh spirit bowing to English strength and skill. It was a measure of England's determination to run the ball, though, that the first penalty kicked for goal did not come until an hour into the game. And only one try came from a forward, flanker Helen Clayton. Full-back Paula George had style to match her power and speed, and once she got going, the Welsh were unable to cope. A solo run from the half- way line for the last try of the match, deep into injury time, rounded off a fine display.

But that was the story all round. If you want to see England run wild, run free, go and watch the women.

England: Tries Burns, Molyneux 2, Twigg, Mitchell, Clayton, Wallace, George; Conversions Prangnell 5. Penalties Burns, Prangnell. Wales: Drop goal Bennett.

ENGLAND: P George (Wasps); J Edwards (Blackheath), J Twigg (Liverpool St Helens), A Wallace (Leeds), J Molyneux (Waterloo); G Prangnell (Wasps) E Mitchell (Saracens); J Mangham (Edinburgh Academics), N Ponsford (Clifton), E Scourfield (Leeds), S Wenn (Richmond), K Henderson (Clifton) J Ross (Saracens), H Clayton (Saracens), G Burns (Waterloo, capt).

WALES: K Richards (Old Leamingtonians); A Rothera (Nottingham Casuals), R Williams, (Shelford), L Rickard (Aberystwyth), K Yau (Waterloo); A Bennett (Saracens), B Evans (Cardiff); B Trotter (Cardiff), N Griffiths (Cardiff), J Studley (Blaenau Gwent), A Dent (Old Leamingtonians), S James (Cardiff), S Ellis (Richmond, capt), L Burgess (Saracens), J Morgan (Cardiff). Replacements: L Jones (Cardiff Harlequins) for James, 40; S Gibbard-Jones (Teddington Antlers) for Studley, 69.

Referee: C Harrison (England).

Photograph, page 20