Poppy Cleall scores hat-trick as England thrash Wales in Women’s Six Nations

The Guardian-10 months before

Wales’ scrum was impressive but the home side were stronger in every other phase of the game. Simon Middleton had sprung something of a surprise in the week when the England head coach left his captain, Sarah Hunter, out of the starting lineup with Emily Scarratt leading the side but it made little difference to their stately progress.

Scarratt converted eight of England’s 10 tries, which included a hat-trick from the lock Poppy Cleall. Cleall was ...iven the player-of-the-match award but not far behind her was the veteran fly-half Katy Daley-McLean, who orchestrated the game perfectly and scored the afternoon’s most eye-catching try with a solo run in the first half.

“Katy’s like a fine wine, improving with age,” said Scarratt. “We wanted to put on a show and rectify a few things out there, as there was a bit of frustration against Ireland, and we scored some fantastic tries.”

Hats off to England, then, but a gulf is opening up between this professionalised side and their Six Nations opponents, which is a concern for the tournament. Wales’ second-half penalty try was some consolation but such has been England’s superiority that that was the only score they have conceded in one-sided games against Scotland, Ireland and Saturday’s visitors.

Scotland Ireland England led 26-0 at the interval with Cleall powering over for their first try after some good pressure by the England back row. That back row included Wasps’ Harriet Millar-Mills, making her first start since the 2017 World Cup. The flanker helped Cleall drive over for her second try by the posts and Wales knew they were in for a long afternoon. Vickii Cornborough was lucky to stay on the field after the prop elbowed the Wales captain, Siwan Lillicrap, at a maul as England continued to dominate territory.

Daley-McLean provided the highlight of the first half with a 30-metre diagonal run and nice sidestep – after more good work by the England forwards – to breach the Welsh defence for the third try. Vicky Fleetwood secured the try bonus point when the Saracens flanker emerged from the bottom of a text-book driving maul from a lineout just before the break.

Millar-Mills took a flat pass from Daley-McLean after the interval for a try that capped her comeback after a long period out of the game with a knee injury. Cleall completed her hat-trick with another powerful run as a red sea of defenders opened up in front of her. Cleall then set up Amy Cokayne for the hooker to celebrate her 50th try.

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