Three became two title contenders and it is little surprise that only England and France remain in contention in the Women’s Six Nations.
Mathematically, Wales might still be in with a shout, but a 58-5 loss to England showed that there is still a gulf in class between the top two and the rest.
We will have to wait until Round 5 to see if that gulf also exists between England and France. The Red Roses have been the more impressive side so far and even down in Bayonne, will rightly go in as favourites to make it four successive titles.
France claimed a 28-8 win in Scotland that was both comfortable and unconvincing before Ireland opened their account with a 29-8 success against Italy in Cork.
Women’s Six Nations 2022
Saturday 9 April
Sunday 10 April
- Scotland 8-28 France
- Ireland 29-8 Italy
England’s maul power
The Red Roses have an all-court game that came to the fore in the second half of their win over Wales, but the foundation of the victory was their driving maul.
In front of a bumper crowd of 14,689, the biggest ever for a home England women’s game, the Gloucester fans will have loved watching try after try come from driving lineouts.
It has been a strength for the Cherry & Whites this season, and England showed that they could do exactly the same, with three of their first four tries coming from mauls, two scored by hooker Lark Davies.
The only exception was a clever move off the back of a lineout, a play that was used again in the second half to put Sarah Bern over.
Even on a day when England lost flyer Abby Dow to a broken leg – the RFU said later on Sunday that she was “comfortable in hospital and will undergo surgery” – this team has shown they have so many different ways to break down the opposition.
Reality check for Wales
Back-to-back bonus-point successes for Wales against Ireland and Scotland had been the perfect outcome after the introduction of professional contracts.
They were always unlikely to threaten England at home, but still would have hoped to keep the Red Roses under 50.
They battled well in the first half and England did not get the bonus point until early in the second but this was a reminder that even though Wales are on the up, they still have a long way to go to close the gap.
Scotland’s slow start
Scotland won the second half of their clash with France 5-0, but unfortunately that came after a one-sided opening 40 minutes.
France’s kicking game allowed them to dominate territory and run in four tries on their way to a comfortable victory, with Jessy Tremouliere standing out with three 50:22s in the first half – even if one was pulled back for an earlier penalty.
Prop Christine Belisle caught the eye for Scotland, her powerful carrying making real dents in an otherwise rock-solid French defence, and that partly set up Chloe Rollie’s try in the second half.
The problem for Scotland was that the damage had been done long before then.
Ireland on the board
After a tricky start to the Women’s Six Nations, Ireland are on the board in some style thanks to a 29-8 win over Italy.
Against an Azzurre side that was forced into a late reshuffle because of a Covid outbreak, Ireland romped to a bonus-point win ahead of a daunting trip to England.
Ireland’s backline looked particularly threatening, but the loss of their sevens contingent for the final two rounds because of a clash with the World Series is a real concern.
The likes of Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, try-scorers Lucy Mulhall and Eve Higgins, and superstar Beibhinn Parsons, provide the firepower in the Ireland backline and without them, an already tall task in England will be even harder.
The TikTok Women’s Six Nations is more accessible than ever before. To find out how you can watch the Women’s Championship visit: womens.sixnationsrugby.com/tv/