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Kay Wilson leads England’s rout of Spain in Women’s Rugby World Cup

The Guardian logo The Guardian 09/08/2017 Gerard Meagher at the UCD Bowl
Kay Wilson of England scores her second try against Spain. © World Rugby via Getty Images Kay Wilson of England scores her second try against Spain.

A perfect 10 for England to open the defence of their World Cup crown, putting Spain to the sword with an authority expected of the only professional side in the tournament. It took just 53 seconds for the gulf in class to be exposed with the first try, by full-time England had added a further nine – Kay Wilson chipping in with four of them – and demonstrated their title credentials in the clearest possible manner.

Simon Middleton can expect far harder challenges as the tournament progresses but considering he made five changes to the side that defeated New Zealand in June, and handed 12 members of his squad a first taste of World Cup action, he can content with his side’s opener, even if Danielle Waterman and the commanding Katy Mclean appeared to suffer injury scares.

Inside a minute, England were ahead and the identity of their first try-scorer will have been particularly pleasing to Middleton. Megan Jones, winning her only her fifth cap, took a flat pass in midfield and danced her way to the try-line, albeit helped along the way by some powderpuff defending from a shell-shocked Spain.

Indeed, Spain were caught in the headlights in the opening minutes, England determined to dazzle. Mclean was imperious at fly-half, firing flat passes to her onrushing forwards – Zoe Aldcroft and Harriet Millar-Mills both cruising through gaping holes in the Spanish defence.

It took Wilson all of four minutes to score her first, going over in the left corner after a five-metre scrum. She had initially been denied by a last-ditch tackle from Barbara Pla – she was missed when she went off for a head injury assessment after 17 minutes and failed to return – but there was no stopping the England wing at the second attempt.

England, at this stage, were scoring at a rate considerably quicker than the clock – 14-0 to the good after six minutes following two expert conversions by Mclean – and Spain were staring down the barrel of the kind of scoreline the tournament organisers might have feared, having branded this the ‘most competitive ever Women’s World Cup’. It is to Spain’s credit however that they repelled numerous waves of England pressure until Wilson broke the dam again – gathering a pinpoint crossfield kick from Mclean and dotting down on the left. Mclean could not convert but when Wilson completed her hat-trick before half-time, the record seven tries she scored against Scotland during this year's Six Nations appeared a feat within her grasp again.

Spain at least registered a score before half-time, kicking a loose ball ahead and Waterman scrambled for, and appeared to injure herself in the process, before working the ball wide on the right to the blindside flanker Diana Gasso. The fly-half Patricia Garcia was just off target with the tricky conversion, ensuring England led 24-5 at the break and Waterman failed to emerge for the second half. She was replaced by Scarratt – the star performer of the 2014 World Cup, who took just two minutes to make her mark, ghosting over on the left for England’s fifth try.

England’s intent to play was clear but similarly, they were the dominant force up front and Millar-Mills bulldozed her way to the try her performance warranted before Wilson ran in her fourth, again in that favoured left corner of hers.

By the hour mark, Middleton had made seven replacements but not all by choice, the withdrawal of Mclean – to be replaced by the scrum-half La Toya Mason – will be of concern but the change in personnel did little to disrupt England’s flow and Matthews pounced on the loose ball after Spain failed to clear their lines for their eighth score. Scarratt, taking over the kicking duties, nailed the conversion.

The replacement hooker Amy Cokayne took England over the 50-point mark from the back of a driving lineout before Lydia Thompson rounded things off on the right, having dropped one in a similar position just moments before.

England: Waterman (Scarratt, h-t); Thompson, Jones, Burford (Reed, 57), Wilson; Mclean (Mason, 52), Riley; Cornborough (Clark, 60), Kerr (Cokayne, 60), Bern (Lucas, 60), Scott (Cleall, 66), Aldcroft, Millar-Mills, Noel-Smith, Hunter (capt; Matthews, 52).

Tries: Jones, Wilson 4, Scarratt, Millar-Mills, Matthews, Cokayne, Thompson Cons: Mclean 2, Scarratt.

Spain: Pla; Casado, Erbina, Bravo, Echebarria (Meliz, 77); Garcia, Fernandez de Corres (Ahis, 58); Jaurena (Macias, 62), Gonzalez (capt, Rico, h-t)), Vinueza, Garcia, Ribera, Gasso, Medin, Redondo (Del Pan, 52).

Try: Gasso.

Attendance: 3,500

Referee: Aimee Barrett (SA)


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