England through to Six Nations final

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Italy: (3) 3
Pen: Sillari
England: (17) 67
Tries: Scarratt, Fleetwood, Dow 2, Millar-Mills, Rowland, B Cleall, MacDonald, Davies; Pens: Rowland, Scarratt; Cons: Scarratt 8
Coverage: Rewatch the match in full on BBC iPlayer

England secured their place in the Women’s Six Nations final as a flurry of late scores helped them to a nine-try victory in Italy.

In a slow start for the Red Roses, Emily Scarratt and Vicky Fleetwood benefited from Italian mistakes for the side’s only first-half tries.

England improved when replacements came on after the break and scored four tries in seven minutes, with Abby Dow crossing twice in Parma.

The final is on BBC Two on 24 April.

England will not learn their opponents for that match until Ireland face France next weekend, but Les Bleues are the favourites to top Pool B.

Before the game both sides paid tribute to Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, who died on Friday aged 99.

The English flag was flown at half-mast during the match and a two-minute silence was observed before kick-off, with England players and UK officials wearing black armbands.

England struggle for early momentum

England came into the match as heavy favourites, but it was Italy who dominated possession from the outset.

Head coach Simon Middleton had rotated his Red Roses side after last weekend’s 52-10 defeat of Scotland and the 10 changes he made seemed to have sent England backwards initially.

They struggled to find their flow and instead had to settle for points earned through Italian mistakes. Scarratt got the visitors on the scoreboard when she picked up a dropped ball to cover half the pitch, before converting her own try.

Italy were not deterred and continued to launch spirited attacks but again ball-handling was the Azzurre’s undoing as Meg Jones grabbed a loose pass and found Fleetwood, who scored.

Middleton condemned repeated inaccuracies against Scotland last weekend and England struggled to tighten up some of those mistakes.

Returning captain Sarah Hunter brought an attack to a halt with a knock-on and Scarratt was sin-binned for a high tackle on wing Maria Magatti.

Italy’s Michela Sillari took the chance to score three points, before England’s Helena Rowland claimed a penalty of her own to take the Red Roses in with a 13-point lead at the break.

England find form in last 30

Initially, England still could not find their flow in the second half as Rowland, who was given a second chance to start in her audition to replace Katy Daley-Mclean as fly-half, mishit a cross-field kick.

After Scarratt earned three points from the tee, Italy’s ill-discipline mounted and scrum-half Sara Barattin paid the price of a yellow card for coming in at the side of the maul.

Poppy Cleall, the player of the match against Scotland, then came on to replace captain Hunter. With her help, the forwards punched a hole in the Italian defence and Leanne Riley sent the ball left for Dow to score her first.

England started to pick up as replacements continued to come on and an impressive scything run from flanker Alex Matthews set up a try for Harriet Millar-Mills.

Minutes later Rowland spotted a gap in Italy’s defence and darted through, before number eight Cleall showed her pace to break away and find Dow, who sprinted down the left wing to score again.

England would have to wait eight minutes for their next try, scored by Bryony Cleall in a driving maul.

Replacements Claudia MacDonald and Lark Davies crossed to bring the tally up to nine, but the Red Roses may not be able to get away with such a slow start should they face France in two weeks’ time.

Player of the match – Meg Jones

Meg Jones more than earned her place as England’s starting 12 with her quick thinking repeatedly sparking the Red Roses’ attack

‘Some of our tries were outstanding’ – what they said

England head coach Simon Middleton said: “We had a really good first half last week and a really good second half this week. We were not physical enough around the breakdown and credit to Italy, their intent was good and we didn’t have any ball.

“We have had a lot of prep going into this tournament, and I saw the intensity in the second half.”

England captain Sarah Hunter said: “We probably didn’t come out with the intensity we should have in the first half.

“I think the second half was more like what we have been working on. We had to wind Italy down a little bit and when you have a bench like we did, some of the tries we scored were outstanding.”

Line-ups

Italy: Furlan (capt); Muzzo, Sillari, Rigoni, Magatti; Madia, Barattin; Skofca, Cammarano, Gai, Fedrighi, Duca, Arrighetti, Franco, Giordano,

Replacements: Bettoni, Maris, Seye, Locatelli, Veronese, Sgorbini, Stegan, D’Inca.

England: Kildunne; Breach, Scarratt (vice-capt), Jones, Dow; Rowland, Riley; Cornborough, Cokayne, Brown, Aldcroft, O’Donnell, Matthews, Fleetwood, Hunter (capt).

Replacements: Davies, Botterman, B Cleall, Millar-Mills, P Cleall, MacDonald, Harrison, McKenna.

Referee: Aurelie Groizeleau



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