Second-half points explosion gets England's Women's Six Nations off to a winning start against Ireland
PUBLISHED: 18:50 01 February 2019
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England got their Women’s Six Nations challenge off to a good start with a 51-7 bonus-point win over Ireland.
It wasn’t a vintage performance by any stretch of the imagination but they did what they needed to do in the first half against a battling Irish threat before easing clear after the break.
Harpenden’s Sarah McKenna and Welwyn’s Zoe Harrison were among the try-scorers while Jess Breach, Sarah Bern, Lark Davies and Katy Daley-McLean also broke the whitewash.
The Hobbs Way rugby club in WGC were also represented by Hannah Botterman, who also counts Datchworth as a former club, and Megan Williams who took her place on the Irish wing.
And despite a promising start from the hosts at Donnybrook, it was England who got the opening try as early as the fifth minute.
Breach has just returned from sevens duty and the Harlequins winger showed why she is so dangerous with a lightning-fast break taking down the wing from just inside the home half and away from the covering tackles of Williams and Lauren Delany.
Ireland still kept pressing but when England did get the ball, they looked dangerous.
Botterman and Bern both made strong surges forward and Breach and fellow wing Kelly Smith were wrapped up quickly.
But after Katy Daley-McLean had kicked a penalty, she sent a little grubber through that McKenna raced on to, getting to the ball and touching down before the dead-ball line arrived.
It was still a game on a bit of a knife-edge when half-time arrived but that soon disappeared 13 minutes into the second period with three converted tries.
Bern needed just 59 seconds to find a gap in the green-shirt defence and Davies did exactly the same just five minutes later.
Daley-McLean bagged both conversions and gave herself an easy shot at the posts after breaking through from 10 metres and dotting down under the sticks.
England rang the changes at this point with Botterman among those getting a rest before the hour mark but Ireland still had something to prove and after a sustained period of pressure on the English line, they were awarded a penalty score for their troubles.
But back roared England and after a lovely dummy pass Harrison charged over, moments after coming on.
Another replacement Emily Scott exploited an overlap with six minutes to go before Saracens’ Bryony Cleall barrelled over for last try.
Daley-McLean completed the scoring with the conversion, bringing up the 50 in the process.
England now move on to play France in Doncaster on Sunday week, a match that could well decide the outcome of the championship.
Ireland: Feely, Lyons, Reidy, McDermott, Fryday, Short, Molloy, Griffin, Hughes, Fowley, Williams, Claffey, Naoupu, Considine, Delany.
Replacements: Hooban, Djougang, O’Hora, Caplice, McLaughlin, Dane, Murphy, Miller.
Try: Penalty 61.
Conversion: Penalty 61
England: Botterman, Davies, Bern, O’Donnell, P.Cleall, Beckett, Packer, Hunter, Riley, Daley-McLean, Smith, Heard, Scarrett, Breach, McKenna.
Replacements: Cokayne, B.Cleall, Brown, Galligan, Burnfield, Hunt, Harrison, Scott.
Tries: Breach 5, McKenna 29, Bern 41, Davies 46, Daley-McLean 53, Harrison 65, Scott 76.
Conversions: Daley-McLean 41, 46, 53
Penalties: Daley-McLean 23
HT: Ireland 0 England 13
Referee: Aimee Barrett-Theron (South Africa)