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Red Roses overcome dogged Ireland effort and finish the Quilter Internationals unbeaten

Red Roses overcome dogged Ireland effort and finish the Quilter Internationals unbeaten
Kelly Smith kept up her recent fine try-scoring record, while Zoe Aldcroft and Tatyana Heard also had good games as the Red Roses scored seven times in total, running away 37-15 winners after victories earlier this month against USA and Canada.

Darlington Mowden Park Sharks hooker Heather Kerr got England on their way after seven minutes, dotting down from a driving maul with further scores from Kelly Smith, coming from a strong offload from Tatyana Heard, and another forward effort from a maul saw Vickii Cornborough go over.

Eimear Considine and Lauren Delany crossed on the stroke of half-time for Ireland, but England went in 15-10 ahead at the break.

Lydia Thompson latched onto Zoe Harrison's superbly weighted grubber for the first points of the second half and then she showed her class to break a tackle and race in from inside her own half for a second score.

Some Irish pressure on England's line eventually saw Claire Molloy score but it was the Red Roses who were victorious as they ended 2018 on a high as Thompson finished off a smart handling move for her hat-trick before Cath O’Donnell bundled over in stoppage time for her first try for the Red Roses.

England head coach Simon Middleton said:

“It would be easy to say the game was a bit frustrating as it was very stop-start and you wanted it to get going, but our performance wasn’t.

“I’m chuffed to bits with the way the squad has come together obviously on the field first and foremost, but off the field as well and it will be one of those where we’ll learn more when we reflect on it."

With a number of inexperienced players gaining their first international experience this autumn, Middleton reflected on the impact some bigger names had at Twickenham.

He said:

“I think the biggest difference for us was Marlie Packer coming on at half-time, she was absolutely outstanding when she came on. Then Katy [Daley-Mclean] and Rachel [Burford] injected pace into the game with their passing and decision making, and that opened the game for us.

“Lydia [Thompson] is phenomenal. Her game is finishing and I think with Portia Woodman they’re the two best finishers in world rugby. Her chances were half chances and she took them.”

With a successful ending to 2018, the Red Roses have won seven of their eight games over the calendar year and will head into the 2019 Six Nations as a fully professional squad.

Ahead of the arrival of 28 full-time contracts on 1 January, he said:

“I’m really pleased for the girls because they are professional in everything but name and have been for a long time, so it’s great to see them get what they deserve.

“I don’t think we could have been any better supported by the RFU in terms of the women’s game – I don’t think any women’s sport in the world gets the support we have.”

England 37 – 15 Ireland

Tries: Kerr, Smith, Cornborough, Thompson 3, O’Donnell

Con: Daley-Mclean

England Women match-day 23

  1. Sarah McKenna (Saracens, 17 caps); 14. Lydia Thompson (Worcester Valkyries, 40 caps), 13. Carys Williams (Loughborough Lightning, 3 caps), 12. Tatyana Heard (Gloucester-Hartpury, 2 caps, Rachael Burford (56)), 11. Kelly Smith (Gloucester-Hartpury, 5 caps); 10. Zoe Harrison (Saracens, 8 caps, Katy Daley-Mclean (56)), 9. Leanne Riley (Harlequins, 24 caps, Claudia Macdonald (70)); 1. Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins, 42 caps, Ellena Perry (70)), 2. Heather Kerr (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks, 16 caps, Lark Davies (56)), 3. Hannah Botterman (Saracens, 5 caps, Shaunagh Brown (61)); 4. Zoe Aldcroft (Gloucester-Hartpury, 8 caps, Catherine O’Donnell (61)), 5. Abbie Scott (Harlequins, 32 caps); 6. Poppy Cleall (Saracens, 24 caps, Marlie Packer (40)), 7. Vicky Fleetwood (Saracens, 67 caps), 8. Sarah Hunter (Loughborough Lightning, 108 caps) (capt)


  1. Lark Davies (Worcester Valkyries, 12 caps), 17. Ellena Perry (Saracens, 3 caps), 18. Shaunagh Brown (Harlequins, 5 caps), 19. Catherine O’Donnell (Loughborough Lightning, 7 caps), 20. Marlie Packer (Saracens, 61 caps), 21. Claudia Macdonald (Wasps FC Ladies, 3 caps), 22. Katy Daley-Mclean (Loughborough Lightning, 102 caps), 23. Rachael Burford (Harlequins, 81 caps)

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