England have started off their inaugural WXV1 campaign in fine form, with an emphatic 42-7 win over Australia. The 6-try run-out saw the Red Roses hit top gear, and continue to extend their unbeaten run of form to eight matches in a row.
Tries from Hannah Botterman, Ella Wywras, Jess Breach, Meg Jones, and two from captain Marlie Packer built the unobtainable lead, with the consistent kicks of Holly Aitchison ensuring the victory. Speaking in the post-match discussion, Packer praised the efforts of debutant Daisy Hibbert-Jones, who made a replacement appearance alongside her captain in the back-row.
“I thought she had a fantastic debut. I think, you know, it’s massive boots to fill when Alex Matthews comes off, and you step in at number eight. She did a quality job at that, and the journey that she’s been on to make it into the Red Roses squad, but then also to get that first cap today has been massive. And I take my hat off to her.
“She’s a very unique and special girl. And you know, we’ve all bonded with her really well through pre-season. I know the whole squad and myself are super happy for her to get her first cap today, but also the way she performed.”
Interim England Head Coach Louis Deacon followed this up by giving an insight to Hibbert-Jones’ debut cap presentation, in what was a special occasion for the Loughborough Lightning star. “Just on Daisy, we just had a really nice moment in the changing room, actually, she’s just been presented her cap. Her parents have flown over (to New Zealand) especially for the game today, from England.
“You know, they weren’t expecting Daisy to be in the squad for WXV. So that was a late booking for them, and they managed to get out today and share that moment of changing room with the players, which I thought was great.”
MATCH REPORT: ENGLAND 42-7 AUSTRALIA (WXV1, Sky Stadium, Wellington)
England started the match strong, as the forwards lead from the off with powerful carries. Hannah Botterman and Zoe Aldcroft broke the Australia line early, and set the Wallaroos onto the back-foot. The Red Roses were over for the first try after just five minutes, with Botterman wrapping round a well worked line-out move, and powering over the tackle attempt of Emily Chancellor from 5m out. Holly Aitchison opened her tournament tally early on, with a sweetly struck conversion for a 7-0 lead.
England got an early foot-hold in the game, and imposed their first half control through key turnovers. Centre Meg Jones impressed with a tackle and turnover combination, halting the Wallaroos attacking momentum at seven minutes. England were over for their second try after 17 minutes, with number eight Alex Matthews starting the move with a breakdown steal of her own. The ball was then sent wide to winger Jess Breach, who beat two players along the left touchline, before popping the ball off to the supporting line of Ella Wywras, for a try on her first England start.
“Ella was outstanding.” Deacon added. “I think she’s that typical sort of nine that brings lots of energy to the team. You know, we like to try and play that game, high tempo pace on the game, and she’s that sort of player and I thought, yeah, she was outstanding today.”
Australia dropped down to 14 players, after second-row Annabelle Codey was sent to the sin-bin. The Wallaroos lock was lucky to not receive a red card, as her shoulder made direct head contact with England captain Marlie Packer. However, the mitigation stood as Codey was static and absorbed the carry of the back-rower. Aitchison then sent the penalty to touch, before Packer grounded the following maul drive for an immediate response, and England’s third try of the contest.
England continued to utilise their tried-and-tested rolling maul, yet a drive just before the half-time mark was stopped short of the try-line. Scrum-half Wywras looked to her blindside wing, and sent a short pass over to Breach, who scored what would likely be amongst the easiest try of her career. Breach ran round the Wallaroos to dot the ball down behind the posts, making the conversion all that much easier for Aitchison, who slotted her fourth consecutive attempt off the tee.
England departed Wellington’s Sky Stadium firmly in control, with a resounding 28-0 lead showing their first half superiority over the Wallaroos.
England imposed their physicality once more, with a powerful second half scrum. The Red Roses won the ball against the Wallaroos put-in, and shunted Australia back for a 44th minute scrum-time penalty. England set the following penalty to touch, with Packer millimetres away from grounding the rolling maul. Botterman drove from close range in the next phase, yet the TMO review saw the prop knock the ball on, briefly saving the Australians.
The following goal-line drop-out was fed straight to Packer, who’s carry set up a nice set of phases for the Red Roses. Further penalty offences awarded England another crack at the line-out, with captain Packer grounding the rolling maul for her second try of the match. Another well struck conversion from Aitchison made it five from five off the tee, and a 35-0 England lead after 48 minutes.
Australia got on the scoreboard after 54 minutes, after a smart piece of quick-thinking from Layne Morgan. The scrum-half took a quick tap with England backs turned, and sent a quick pass to Ashley Marsters to score from close range. Carys Dillinger nailed the conversion from out wide, to add two more points for the Wallaroos.
Australia’s fight-back was short-lived, as England were back down the other end of Sky Stadium to score just two minutes later. After a bruising carry from replacement forward Sarah Beckett, Wywras send a tricky pass through to Meg Jones, who showcased her England Sevens skills with some quick footwork to beat the last defender. It went from bad to worse from Australia, as Codey was shown her second yellow card for a red card dismissal, after her shoulder charge on Wywras, in the build-up to the 56th minute try.Embed from Getty Images
A relentless closing phase of play saw the Wallaroos make phase after phase of short drives. Replacement forward Sarah Beckett took a quick trip to the sin-bin as England’s penalty count ticked over. However, Australia were unable to build on this now level playing field for a late try to close out the match, with the ball spilled into touch to close out the game in Wellington.
Speaking in the post-match media conference, Wallaroos Head Coach Jay Tregonning praised the fight of his side’s second half performance, which featured just 14 players for the most part. “Again, the fight. We asked for it at the beginning of the game, we reiterated that at half-time as well. Really pleased with how the players dig in and fight for each other.
“Unfortunately, again, going down to 14 players has an impact on things such as our set piece and limits our options in that as well. But again, the ability to be able to put behind, and players doing some extra work in regards to our system, so the systems can still operate the way that we want them to, is really pleasing from the coach’s point of view.”
TRIES: 6 (Botterman 5′, Wywras 17′, Packer 29, 48′, Breach 37′, Jones 56′)
CONVERSIONS: 6 (Aitchison 5′, 17′, 29, 37′, 48′, 56′,)
DROP GOALS: 0
YELLOW CARDS: 1 (Beckett 80′)
RED CARDS: 0
ENGLAND: 15. Helena Rowland 14. Abby Dow 13. Megan Jones 12. Tatyana Heard 11. Jess Breach 10. Holly Aitchison 9. Ella Wywras 1. Hannah Botterman 2. Connie Powell 3. Maud Muir 4. Rosie Galligan 5. Zoe Aldcroft 6. Maisy Allen 7. Marlie Packer (captain) 8. Alex Matthews
REPLACEMENTS: 16. Lark Atkin-Davies 17. Mackenzie Carson 18. Kelsey Clifford 19. Sarah Beckett 20. Daisy Hibbert-Jones 21. Natasha Hunt 22. Sophie Bridger 23. Emma Sing
TRIES: 1 (Marsters 57′)
CONVERSIONS: 1 (Dallinger 57′)
DROP GOALS: 0
YELLOW CARDS: 2 (Codey 29′, 57′)
RED CARDS: 1 (Codey 57′)
AUSTRALIA: 15. Faitala Moleka 14. Maya Stewart 13. Georgina Friedrichs 12. Arabella McKenzie 11. Ivania Wong 10. Carys Dallinger 9. Layne Morgan 1. Brianna Hoy 2. Tania Naden 3. Eva Karpani 4. Michaela Leonard (captain) 5. Annabelle Codey 6. Siokapesi Palu 7. Emily Chancellor 8. Kaitlan Leaney
REPLACEMENTS: 16. Adiana Talakai 17. Bree-Anna Cheatham 18. Emily Robinson 19. Atasi Lafai 20. Ashley Marsters 21. Sarah Dougherty 22. Cecilia Smith 23. Desiree Miller
ENGLAND PLAYER RATINGS VS AUSTRALIA
15. Helena Rowland 7
14. Abby Dow 6.5
13. Megan Jones 7
12. Tatyana Heard 6.5
11. Jess Breach 7.5
10. Holly Aitchison 8
9. Ella Wywras 7.5
1. Hannah Botterman 8
2. Connie Powell 6
3. Maud Muir 6.5
4. Rosie Galligan
5. Zoe Aldcroft 6.5
6. Maisy Allen 7
7. Marlie Packer (captain) 8.5
8. Alex Matthews 7
16. Lark Atkin-Davies (Powell, 54′) 6
17. Mackenzie Carson (Botterman, 54′) 6
18. Kelsey Clifford (Muir, 54′) 6.5
19. Sarah Beckett (Aldcroft 47′) 6
20. Daisy Hibbert-Jones (Matthews, 58′) Debut 6.5
21. Natasha Hunt (Wywras 60′) 6
22. Sophie Bridger (Jones 58′) 7
23. Emma Sing (Heard 60′) 6.5