England’s eight-try display once again dominates the Women’s Six Nations in Wales

England scored eight tries (Getty Images)

Another edition of one of rugby’s great competitions and another demonstration that the gap between the best and the rest in the Women’s Six Nations is still huge. It is now three years since Wales beat England by funding a professional program but there is still great competition between the two sides, the class of this championship is too fast, too strong and too good.

If Italy were victorious in round one last week, this was more like the Red Roses who have dominated this competition for so long, different and all venomous. It was hoped that Wales could build on last year’s excellent first 20 minutes in Cardiff when they outplayed their English visitors, but this felt like a step back, despite a narrower final margin. Ioan Cunningham was not helped by the smattering of late injury-enforced changes, but the coach of Wales will be disappointed not to have seen his side show better for those who make the short hop across the Severn.

That traveling contingent helped bolster a total crowd of 19,705, a record for a Red Roses home game away from Twickenham. There is an understandable concern that England’s dominance will ultimately be a limiting factor in the continued growth of crowds but for now, the paying public seem to be more than happy for the hosts to win.

England were rampant at times in Bristol (Getty Images)England were rampant at times in Bristol (Getty Images)

England were rampant at times in Bristol (Getty Images)

And why not when they can do so in such style. England’s aim for this tournament is to progress beyond the brilliant fundamentals that helped them establish their dominance and instead become a side that can play any way. Not everything happened but there were some exciting performances here, especially from the equally beautiful midfield of Holly Aitchison, Tatyana Heard and Meg Jones.

The intention was set from the first time England got the ball. It was a good start for Wales, Lleucu George capitalizing on a steady spell of possession through a powerful scrum-winning penalty, but the visitors were soon behind. Abby Dow reached a track beyond Jenny Hesketh, leaving the young back dead on the outside break, while Maud Muir hit the line with expert power and timing to crash.

England’s strong pace was causing problems for Wales. John Mitchell has emphasized speed in his group of outside linebackers, which partly explains Emily Scarratt’s move to inside center. Jones replaces Helena Rowland, whose competition is over due to a broken arm, here, offering the same flicks, tricks, kicks and the same pioneering menace of the seventies circuit.

Holly Aitchison put on a composed performance at fly half (Getty Images)Holly Aitchison put on a composed performance at fly half (Getty Images)

Holly Aitchison put on a composed performance at fly half (Getty Images)

The Cardiff-born Jones retains his Welsh for his formal days across the border but few are proud of England. The center has been a standout in a struggling Leicester side this year and was exceptional here, punching well above her weight defensively and causing Hannah Jones all sorts of problems in attack. Zoe Aldcroft had already scored England’s second when Jones launched a counter-attack the length of the pitch, followed by a big surge and a clever toe in front, Hannah Boterman eventually finished off the try.

Wales had the continuity in the phase-play to maintain possession but the players did not need the game to stop the English defence. A few moments of profligacy – Sian Jones was agitated at the foot of a ruck, Aitchison picked up an interception – but the hosts were largely handled by the Welsh carriers. When Lark Atkin-Davies continued the five-scorer theme from a flurry, England had a bonus point before half-time.

Cunningham had loaded his bench in the hope of matching England at all and turned to regular starters Sisilia Tuipulotu and Alisha Joyce-Butchers at the time. He had little impact – Ellie Kildunne was round for England’s fifth in the corner within three minutes of the restart, with Dow sixth soon after.

Another representative stopped the rot. The livewire Keira Bevan was another surprise inclusion on the bench to bring what consistency as number nine Cunningham and his effort was well received, tapping and dancing under the posts.

But, as was always likely, it was only a temporary relief. Kildonnell played free with their second shortly after Rosie Galligan took the lead, ensuring all five tight goals were on the score sheet to reflect their all court game.

Ellie Kildunne scored twice in the corner for England (Getty Images)Ellie Kildunne scored twice in the corner for England (Getty Images)

Ellie Kildunne scored twice in the corner for England (Getty Images)

It will leave Cunningham and his squad with tough questions. Wales were delighted to finish third and qualify for WXV1 in this competition a year ago, but their trip to New Zealand proved a brutal experience, with the sport’s established powers such as gap year students promoting them. On the contrary, Scotland returned from the second tier competition with a trophy and momentum – it was little surprise to see them push France to the finish line.

But Wales seems to have stalled. It was the foundation of their game that let them down here too often, the line out miserable, their exits regularly shallow or messy. Their scavengers managed to stop England at the break but the focus in that area left space in the wide channels, which their opponents took too easily. The Red Roses march on.

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