DOUGHTY SCOTLAND TEST ENGLAND'S WOMEN
The England men may have discovered Josh Lewsey but the England Women have Chris Diver. Chris, not selected for the World Cup Final in Barcelona, as she reminded me, has added a new dimension to the play of the England Women. Scotland's coaches, aware that Diver had already run in eight tries for England so far, had built their game plan around keeping the ball from fullback Diver and England's free-running backs. You didn't have to be an Einstein to expect that, as Geoff Richards, England's Head Coach observed. But expecting it and dealing with it effectively is often a different matter altogether. The story of Saturday's game at The Stoop, was one of a determined Scottish side taking England on by playing to their forward strengths, denying England quick ball and forcing errors from the England backs whenever they had the ball to run with.
But ultimately class will tell and when, five minutes into the second half, the ball reached Chris Diver out on England's right wing, from her expression it was a case of "try on" and scattering the Scottish defence, she ran half the length of the pitch before touching down. And then began the Diver celebrations that even Felipe Contepomi, Bristol's maestro, would be hard put to match. It was just what the Bank Holiday style crowd enjoying Twickenham's sunshine, had come to see. England's golden girl had put the game beyond Scotland's reach and taken her personal tally to nine tries so far in the championship.
England in spite of constant Scottish pressure had gone in at half time 12 points up through tries by Helen Clayton and the centre Assunta de Biase and were to score a further two tries following Diver's in the second half. The first was by Vanessa Huxford and the second, by replacement Sarah Marsh, following fifteen minutes of furious Scottish pressure on the English line.
Final score England 31 Scotland 0.
The England management are hoping to arrange regular games against World Champions New Zealand, and Geoff Richards and the England girls will have been delighted to encounter such a doughty Scottish Team. "If you want to play at your best, you have to compete with the best" and on Saturday at the Stoop, the England Team will have been pleased that they maintained concentration, defended for long periods to deny the Scotland Team any score and still managed to score five tries themselves.
After the game, Chris Diver admitted that: It was a little bit frustrating for the backs as it was more of a forwards game and yes, there had been some rehearsals of her try scoring celebrations. England's Captain, Maxine Edwards said: "Overall we're pleased. It's another win and with no points against." "We're looking forward now to the game with Ireland. It's going to be a tough match in that we're not sure how they're going to play as we haven't played them recently." "They will have nothing to lose but we will have to keep our concentration and be very disciplined." "We are going to be up and ready for it."
Head Coach, Geoff Richards summing up said: "We knew that we would be on equal terms upfront and I thought that they (Scotland) played really well. They took the game to us and made life really difficult for us. They have a good half back pairing and, although their forwards were a handful, I thought that we coped with it well." "I was particularly pleased with our goal line defence late in the first half and for long periods in the second half." We knew that they would be trying to deny our backs the ball and at times we made life difficult for ourselves with poor ball handling skills letting us down." "I'm not happy with that part of our performance, but the pleasing part of our performance is that we didn't let Scotland score. We were able to hold them out for long periods and then we were able to break away." "It was a good game and Scotland are a good tough outfit as they showed this afternoon. They played to their strengths and did very, very well."
"Altogether, I thought that it was a fantastic atmosphere out there today with people enjoying a quality game. We don't have too much funding to advertise the Women's game but as it's on the same day as the Men's event word gets around. Hopefully, we will be able to build upon that next year and The Stoop could be a big home venue for us."
England's Women now face a showdown in Limerick's Thomond Park with an Ireland side who lost away to Wales on Saturday by 12 points to 0. England having beaten Wales at Cardiff Arms Park 69 to 7. Playing before a home crowd in Ireland is an altogether different matter though as Gloucester found out when they travelled to Munster in the Heineken Cup.
Geoff Richards viewed the next game in Ireland pragmatically: "The next game is the next game. We've won four and now we have got to win a fifth. That's our main objective. We will sit down and analyse this game, look at the things we are not pleased with and those are the things we will have to work on." "Today Scotland played with a lot of aggression and a lot of passion. We had to match that and I think we did"
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