England Women are on course to defend their European Cup crown after a second successive victory, this time against Italy, which saw Graham Smith’s side run in six tries against a determined Italian outfit in Rovereto, Italy.
Bristol’s Sally Tuson, on just her second cap, ran in a brace of tries, while Harriet Millar-Mills, Lydia Thompson, another new cap, Danielle Waterman and Rowena Burnfield all crossed Italy’s line.
England’s defence also stood up to a tough test with a feisty Italian side pushing England throughout the game.
Smith, who has taken on the Head Coach role for this tour, said, “It may be a cliché but I am extremely pleased and proud of this team.
“This tournament is proving that we have got some very good players coming through. We have got some really exciting players in Sally Tuson, Lauren Cattell and Lydia Thompson, while our more experienced players have been fantastic leading this young side both on and off the pitch.
“We played some quality rugby today, but at the same time we also need to be more consistent and work on our discipline as we gave away some penalties.
“Our defence, however, was awesome as Italy really could have scored more tries than they did and it is a testament to this side that we just kept knocking them back. ”
Italy punished England early on when England were penalised at the breakdown and fly-half Veronica Schiavon stroked over a penalty after just two minutes.
But the visitors were by no means put off their stride and a break by Richmond lock Burnfield saw the ball offloaded to Gemma Sharples and then out to the wing and into the clutches of centre Tuson who powered over the line. Chesham fly-half Lauren Cattell couldn’t make the conversion.
14 minutes in and England had established a 10-3 lead. A good England scrum, five metres out, saw the pack drive forward and Lichfield’s No. 8 Millar-Mills picked up to dive over the try-line.
England’s dominance continued with a try straight after the kick off when England secured the ball in their 22. The pack powered forward again, creating a solid platform for the backs which eventually saw vice-captain and fullback Danielle Waterman dive over under the posts.
England went down to 14 players when Millar-Mills was sin-binned, but Italy weren’t able to take advantage and England went into the break 15-3 up.
The restart saw Italy this time lose a player to the sin bin, scrum-half Sara Barattin, but unlike their opponents earlier England did capitalise.
England dominated possession and eventually some good ball from a line-out saw the ball swung out to wing Thompson for her fourth try in two games.
Try number five for England came courtesy of the ever present Tuson, but Waterman played a big part as usual, and a great break by the fullback saw Georgina Rozario offload to Tuson, who evaded Italy’s defence to score. Cattell converted, before workhorse Burnfield wrapped up England’s tally with a 68th minute touchdown.
Italy, however, remained as dogged as ever and their hard work paid off when England lost a second player to the sin-bin – this time Sharples – and the home side battered England’s line and eventually broke through with wing Anna Barbanti taking the points.
Final score Italy 8 England 32.
England will now play France in the final game of the European Cup on Saturday, kick off 6.30pm.
Lizzie Flint, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine