A very impressive performance by the Netherlands was far too strong for Sweden in the opening game of the European Championship.
After recent good performances by Sweden a closer result was anticipated than last year’s 38-12 win by their Dutch hosts, but the visitors were blown away by one of the most impressive Dutch test performances in recent years.
The Netherlands have never had a reputation for taking it easy on lesser opponents – no nation has more 100+ point wins in test rugby than Dutch – and for much of the game they were scoring at over a point a minute. Only in the final quarter, as the benches came into use, were the Swedes able to hold them.
This was the 19th time the teams had met (though only the third time in the last 10 years) in a rivalry that goes back to the very beginning of women’s test rugby, but the final result was the Netherlands biggest ever win against the Swedes.
Gaya van Nifterik scored the Dutch team's first try after just five minutes. This was followed by Anouk Veerkamp (10-0), Inger Jongerius (17-0), Isa Prins (22-0), Jongerius (27-0), Lieve Stalmann (32-0) and finally Nicky Dix. The Dutch team entered the locker room at halftime with a 37-0 lead.
The game pattern did not change in the second half. Pien Selbeck scored immediately in the second minute (42-0). Three minutes later Brechtje Karst (47-0) did the same (this time converted by Marit Lemmens (49-0)). Lisa Boot (54-0 and Lemmens (59-0) added scores in the final quarter.
The only weakness in the Dutch performance was goal kicking. Of the 11 tries only two were converted, a factor that might come into play in closer games.
The national coach was delighted afterwards. "I think it is the highest score ever against Sweden. It's a good start to the cycle with games against Portugal and Colombia still to come. Our goal is and remains qualification for the World Cup," said Sylke Haverkorn, who allowed Senne Hoog and Isa Spoler to make their debuts.
Captain Linde van der Velden thought it was 'very nice' that the score had risen so high. “We have worked hard in the run-up to this. And if you can stick to the plan as a team, that promises a lot for the matches to come.'' Although that Sweden did not score a point they put some pressure on the Dutch in the second half, the former Castricum player admitted. “Fortunately we continued steadily. Every time we scored a try, we came together as a team to discuss some points. That way we kept our focus. One thing was certain; We absolutely wanted to keep a clean sheet. And it worked.''
The Dutch travel to Lisbon for the first time on 24th February for a game where a win will confirm at least runners-up spot in the Championship. After that they host Colombia for the crucial WXV playoff on 16th March, where a win would keep them on track for their target of a first World Cup since 2002.
Sweden meanwhile will pick themselves up for their visit to Lisbon on 9th March. Both teams will round off with home games against Spain in April.