Grand slam remains well within reach as England claim five-try success over Ireland
PUBLISHED: 14:43 23 February 2020 | UPDATED: 14:44 23 February 2020
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England moved to within two games of back-to-back grand slams in the Women’s Six Nations with a solid 27-0 victory over Ireland in Doncaster.
The Red Roses scored four tries in the first half and added one more after the break, that from Harpenden's own and OA Saints' coach Sarah McKenna.
It means wins in their final two games, at home to Wales and away to Italy, will give Simon Middleton's side a historic record.
This victory in front of a capacity crowd at Castle Park wasn't the best display they will ever produce but against a good Irish the five points and clean sheet will be gladly taken.
England started, as they had at Murrayfield two weeks ago, with a forwards try on three minutes
The scrum was dominant throughout and they proved that ominously early by pushing the Irish back over their own line from a five-metre scrum, Sarah Hunter getting the final touch.
And in a story of the half, whenever the white shirts got into the Irish 22, they came away with a try.
A break by Emily Scarratt through the middle of the park led to the ball going out to the right wing where McKenna drew the last defender and gave Abby Dow one of the easiest tries of her international career so far.
Opposite wing Jess Breach added try number three after another set of scrummages had caused Ireland problems and the forwards ended the half as they had started it, this time using a catch and drive from a line-out to send Vicky Fleetwood over the line.
Ireland had the benefit of the wind in the first period and used it to put England under pressure for long periods but a unique press box at Castle Park, situated behind the posts, allowed a good view of brilliant England defence which utilised double tacklers regularly.
The visitors weren't helped by the loss of prop Lindsay Peat to a nasty-looking leg injury, who left the ground under her on steam but with her knee heavily bandaged and her lower leg in a protective boot, and there would have been plenty of apprehension in the away dressing room at half-time knowing the conditions favoured the hosts after the break.
The expected pressure took a while to get going though and wasn't as emphatic as perhaps thought.
A stop-start opening to the half meant there were over 10 minutes on the clock when the Red Roses finally built up a head of steam.
A flying Sarah Bern was hauled down metres short by Sene Naoupu, moments before Zoe Aldcroft was also stopped in front of the posts, this time by centre partner Katie Fitzhenry.
England throught they had scored on 58 minutes when Dow went over in the corner but the referee was right on the spot to see the final pass from Scarratt go forward.
But there was no doubt two minutes later.
Natasha Hunt had got the home side on the front foot but after she was stopped, McKenna found the gap to power over from five yards.
Former Welwyn junior Zoe Harrison arrived off the bench with 14 minutes to go, filling in again at fly-half again as Katy Daley McLean departed, and she almost helped England score a wonderful breakaway try that involved a good number of clever passes before the ball went to ground.
Another lengthy delay for injury, this time to Naoupu, added a further halt to the game's momentum and England were more than happy to close out the contest without much more ado.
Their attention now turns to the Twickenham Stoop in two weeks for the triple crown clash and potentially so much more.
England: Cornborough, Davies, Bern, Cleall, Aldcroft, Beckett, Fleetwood, Hunter, Riley, Daley-McLean, Breach, Reed, Scarratt, Dow, McKenna.
Replacements: Cockayne, D.Harper, Brown, Millar-Mills, A.Harper, Hunt, Harrison, Scott.
Tries: Hunter 3, Dow 14, Breach 28, Fleetwood 40, McKenna 60
Conversions: Scarratt 3
Ireland: Peat, Moloney, Djougang, McDermott, Bobbett, Griffin, McMahon, Caplice, Dane, Keohane, Doyle, Fitzhenry, Naoupu, Delany, Considine.
Replacements: O'Mahony, Feely, Lyons, Cooney, Wall, Cronin, Muldoon, Tyrrell.
HT: England 22 Ireland 0
Attendance: 5,000 (capacity crowd)
Referee: Hollie Davidson (Scotland)