England expose Women’s Six Nations gap in class once again

England 68-5 Italy: A 12-try hammering saw England return to the top of the Women’s Six Nations table

Pa Sport Staff
Sunday 02 April 2023 18:07 BST
(AFP via Getty Images)

Four tries from Abby Dow and a hat-trick from Jess Breach fired England to a dominant 68-5 bonus-point victory over Italy at Franklin’s Gardens in the Women’s Six Nations.

A much-changed England – following injuries to Poppy Cleall and Amber Reed and the retirement of captain Sarah Hunter – returned to the top of the Six Nations table.

Marlie Packer took over as Red Roses captain, Bristol lock Delaney Burns earned her first cap, Zoe Aldcroft replaced Hunter at number eight and Catherine O’Donnell stepped into the starting line-up to join Burns in the second row.

England were on the scoresheet within two minutes, capitalising on an error by the Italians to allow Breach to dot down, with Holly Aitchison adding the extras to hand the Grand Slam holders the early lead.

Italy replied quickly through Sara Tounesi from a driving maul but the hosts reasserted their dominance and by the 32-minute mark, had already secured their bonus point, making it 22-5 when a lovely feed from Sarah Bern set Claudia McDonald away for a pacey move across the whitewash.

England extended their lead before half-time and Tatyana Heard added her name to the scoresheet with a 45th-minute try, converted by Lagi Tuima.

Abby Dow scored four tries in the thrashing
Abby Dow scored four tries in the thrashing (PA)

It was not all good news for the hosts, however, as MacDonald was forced off with an apparent ankle injury and was replaced by Emma Sing, who soon converted a second try for Dow three minutes before the Harlequins winger dotted down for her third.

With an Italian comeback all-but impossible, England head coach Simon Middleton introduced seven players from his bench as Breach completed a hat-trick of her own.

Dow crossed for her fourth and skipper Packer added two more tries to make it 12 on the afternoon for her clinical England side.

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