Claudia MacDonald (two), Amy Cokayne (two), Tatyana Heard, Poppy Cleall, Sadia Kabeya and Marlie Packer (hat-trick) scored tries as England rack up dominant Round 1 Women’s Six Nations win over Scotland at Kingston Park in Newcastle; Sarah Hunter emotionally retires on home turf
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 25/03/23 6:51pm
England began their 2023 Women’s Six Nations campaign in dominant fashion as they proved far too strong for Scotland in a 58-7 win in stalwart Sarah Hunter’s farewell Test.
In a game played in Hunter’s hometown of Newcastle at Kingston Park, England scored 10 tries through wing Claudia MacDonald (two), hooker Amy Cokayne (two), centre Tatyana Heard, lock Poppy Cleall, openside Sadia Kabeya and blindside Marlie Packer (hat-trick).
Red Roses – Tries: MacDonald (9, 24), Cokayne (18, 31), Heard (27), Cleall (42), Kabeya (50), Packer (58, 63, 67). Cons: Reed (9), Tuima (28, 32, 51).
Scotland – Tries: Rollie (75). Cons: Nelson (77).
Hunter retires with a record 141 caps to her name, having made her Six Nations debut back in 2007, and leaves the sport at the age of 37 after a highly-decorated, 16-year career.
The one negative for Red Roses head coach Simon Middleton on the day was a serious-looking leg injury suffered by Cleall, who had performed superbly, in the closing stages.
After a nervy England start had brought knock-ons and avoidable penalties on a day of huge emotion, they showed composure to eventually score the opening try in the ninth minute, as wing MacDonald got over off a lovely Amber Reed inside ball, and after forwards Cleall and Packer had made crucial metres with ball in hand.
Scotland almost conjured an immediate response, when a superb backline attack saw outside-centre Emma Orr ground the ball inches short, but the visitors were made to pay for such profligacy when England hooker Cokayne stayed out wide to finish a flowing passing sequence on 18 minutes, scoring her 32nd Test try in doing so.
Five minutes later, England had a third try and MacDonald her second, displaying searing pace in a stunning individual effort beginning within her own half.
Replacement centre Heard – on for the injured Reed – then confirmed a bonus-point for the hosts by the 27th minute, running past poor Scotland tackling after prop Sarah Bern had made a stunning initial line-break.
For England, Sarah Hunter started as captain in her final game before retirement, having first appeared in the 6N in 2007; England handed a debut to former Canada prop Mackenzie Carson; lock Rosie Galligan was out, and will miss the entire tournament with a hamstring injury sustained in training; With Zoe Harrison and Helena Rowland both ruled out through injury, 25-year-old Holly Aitchison was charged with pulling the strings at fly-half
Bryan Easson named a youthful Scotland XV, with his centre and wing pairings possessing 11 caps between them. Francesca McGhie made her debut on the left wing, Saracens’ Coreen Grant started on the other wing for the first time. Rachel Malcolm led the team out from blindside flanker. Uncapped centre Beth Blacklock was named on the bench.
Past the half-hour, England had a fifth try, as a trademark rolling maul presented Cokayne the chance to fall over the line and score, with pacy and dynamic full-back Abby Dow making the initial inroads this time from within her own half.
At the other end, a fantastic Jess Breach tackle just kept Scotland debutante Francesca McGhie out towards the end of the half.
A little over two minutes into the second period, England had a sixth try as the outstanding Cleall ran another brilliant line before storming over, while 21-year-old flanker Kabeya forced her way over for another try on 50 minutes, with Dow again key to its creation.
Packer next added England’s eighth try via a rolling maul just prior to Hunter’s departure to a great fanfare, and she soon had her second just past the hour mark in almost identical fashion: grounding at the back of a rolling maul in the corner.
It was more of the same five minutes later as Packer had a third try through the rolling maul yet again, but Scotland did ensure they would not be nilled on the day when full-back Chloe Rollie produced a superb weaving run to get over late on.
England host Italy at Franklin’s Gardens in Northampton next Sunday, April 2 (3pm kick-off GMT), in Round 2 of the Women’s Six Nations.
Scotland are in action next Saturday for the second round of the championship, hosting Wales at the Dam Health Stadium in Edinburgh (5.30pm kick-off GMT).