England Women A opened their European Trophy campaign with a 5-0 victory over Italy in Coruna, Spain today (Saturday).
England, playing in Pool B, had to thank full back Kay Wilson for their one and only try of the game, though they did miss many more opportunities than that in the first half.
England now head into the second round of the pool games on Monday playing unknown side the Netherlands, kick off 3pm BST.
Wilson’s crucial score came early on with the Richmond back taking the points after just five minutes. A good drive by the forwards saw the ball moved out-wide. Wasps wing Michaela Staniford, making her return from injury, made a great break before offloading to Georgina Roberts. England’s ball was slowed down, but some good work at a ruck again saw the ball recycled out-wide through Sarah McKenna, Kim Oliver and then Fran Matthews. Matthews spotted a gap, and drew in Italy’s defence before offloading to Wilson who then ran in on the wing from 22 metres out. McKenna couldn’t make the extras.
England kept the heat on Italy in the next 20 minutes, with Staniford again making a good break to set Roberts up but she knocked on to give Italy some breathing space.
Flanker Jane Leonard also had her chance, supporting a nice break from McKenna, but as she got into Italy’s 22 the Army and Wasps player spilled the ball in the tackle to let Italy off the hook.
England’s forwards also came close to scoring from a well worked line-out catch and drive but Italy’s defence held firm to keep England out.
With Italy surviving the early barrage of attack and keeping England at bay the Italians picked up their game, and although they didn’t challenge England’s try-line until late on in the second half they made the Red Roses work hard for their opportunities.
England, however, did dominate possession and territory for much of the game though in the second half they started to give too many penalties away and Italy fought back. Just like Italy, England’s defence held firm though with Roberts and Matthews at the heart of action while some good work by England’s back row of Sarah Hunter, Leonard and Marlie Packer proved crucial in this tight game.
England A Head Coach Mike Barnett said: “We were generally in control for most of the game. Our one try was certainly a good one with the ball moved through several phases of play. We had more chances and should have made the most of them but Italy were tough opponents and had a lot of experience in their side. Although there was only one score in it we were reasonably comfortable throughout.
“This was a tough opener as we’d expected. It was a physical game too and we were definitely tested. But that is exactly what we wanted in our first game. We now need to keep moving forward and if we do that then we will be in good shape by the end of the week when the tournament gets really serious.”