England run rampant in second half as much-changed Ireland suffer heavy Six Nations defeat

For the opening 40 minutes of this one-sided clash, Ireland more than held their own, but you always felt like it was only a matter of time before England pulled clear.

reland will have major regrets that the inevitable onslaught began so soon after the break, yet having put so much into what was a dogged and determined first-half defensive display, the class of England showed.

The lopsided scoreline shouldn’t detract from Ireland’s efforts in front of a record crowd of 15,836 at Welford Road, but the reality is, England are operating on a different level.

As a professional outfit, this margin of victory was to be expected, but it’s worth remembering that this is an Ireland team without nine players, who were either on Sevens duty or injured.

Greg McWilliams’ side didn’t help themselves at times, as their set-piece struggles were damaging, while Dorothy Wall’s yellow card was costly, with England scoring three tries during the 10-minute spell the back-row was off the pitch.

To make matters worse, Sene Naoupu was sent off, leaving her side down to 14 players for the remaining 13 minutes, while Eimear Considine was stretchered off with what looked like a serious leg injury and Nicole Cronin was also forced off.

Amid the carnage, Ireland had big performances from the likes of Neve Jones, Linda Djougang, Edel McMahon and Hannah O’Connor, who all tackled themselves to a standstill.

However, it wasn’t enough to stop England running riot, scoring 11 tries en route to an emphatic victory that was just short of the 79-0 loss Ireland suffered in 2002.

The Red Roses have the Grand Slam in their sights, while for Ireland, attention now turns to the visit of Scotland to Belfast next weekend, as they look to rid themselves of this nightmare as quickly as possible.

A first-minute penalty gave England the platform to find touch deep in the 22, and as soon as they set up the maul, Ireland had no answer to the power, with Lark Davies dotting down.

England thought they were in again shortly after, only for the TMO to correctly spot a forward pass in the build up.

It was only a brief reprieve, however, as the hosts cranked up the pressure at scrum time, and when they again went for the corner from a penalty, the maul caused further damage as Sarah Bern doubled her side’s lead midway through the opening half.

The floodgates threatened to open, but Ireland stood tall and withstood the barrage of pressure that came their way.

Having grown in confidence, they should have put themselves on the scoreboard but after a bright passage, Cronin missed a kick from in front of the posts.

Jones and McMahon won crucial turnovers to help stem the tide and then Ireland held the England maul up over the line for what was a major psychological boost.

Although Ireland were camped in their own 22, England were wasteful in possession and they should have been reduced to 14 players when Leanne Infante’s swinging arm made contact with Michelle Claffey’s face. Somehow Australian referee Amber McLachlan deemed it a mere ‘push’ and didn’t further punish the lively scrum-half.

Ireland had to be on their guard right up until the break and shortly after Fryday won a breakdown penalty, debutante Molly Scuffil-McCabe came up with a stunning try-saving tackle out wide to ensure Ireland only trailed 10-0 at half-time.

Ireland would have welcomed the breather but England came flying out of the traps after the restart and as they moved the ball through the hands to Marlie Packer outside, the back-row powered over and this time centurion Emily Scarratt added the touchline conversion.

It quickly went from bad to worse for Ireland, who lost Wall to a yellow card for a high tackle and England made immediate use of their numerical advantage by securing the bonus point try courtesy of Davies’ second, which was converted by Scarratt to open up a 24-0 lead.

Suddenly there were holes in the Irish defence and with Wall still in the bin, England ran in another two tries. The first saw Lydia Thompson score from a cracking set-piece move before Poppy Cleall bulldozed her way over following another powerful maul.

Wall returned to the action but there was no let up from England and replacement prop Hannah Botterman went over for her side’s seventh try, with Scarratt again adding the extras.

A long stoppage in play for Considine’s injury was followed by Cleall scoring her second and her side’s eighth try, with Scarratt’s extra two pushing England to the 50-point mark.

The tries kept coming and this time it was Ellie Kildunne’s turn to get her name on the scoresheet and Zoe Harrison converted with Scarratt off for a HIA following Naoupu’s high tackle, which cost the experienced centre a red card.

Kildunne scored her second try shortly after and although England also had to finish with 14 players due to Cleall’s late injury, the hosts scored an eleventh try through Thompson. Harrison’s conversion completed the rout.

England – H Rowland; L Thompson, E Scarratt (Aitchison 67-77), H Aitchison (A Reed, 59) J Breach (E Kildunne 44; Z Harrison, L Infante (N Hunt 59); V Cornborough (H Botterman 47), L Davies (A Cokayne 47), S Bern (M Muir 47); Z Aldcroft, A Ward (R Galligan 56); A Matthews, M Packer, S Hunter (capt) (P Cleall 48).

Ireland – M Scuffil-McCabe, A Doyle, S Naoupu, E Breen, E Considine (N Byrne 63) ; N Cronin (M Claffey 29), K Dane (A Reilly 73); L Djougang (C Pearse 73), N Jones (E Hooban, 73), C Haney (K O’Dwyer 43); N Fryday (capt), A McDermott (G Moore 50); D Wall (M Og O’Leary 65), E McMahon, H O’Connor.

Ref: A McLachlan (Australia)

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