Marlie Packer hat-trick helps England on their way to a 58-7 win over Scotland in their 2023 Women’s Six Nations opener, as Sarah Hunter retires after 141 caps.
Report: England Rugby
All three of the flanker’s tries came within nine second half minutes and the Red Roses crossed 10 times in all at Kingston Park, with Claudia MacDonald and Amy Cokayne each scoring doubles.
Tatyana Heard, Poppy Cleall and Sadia Kabeya also went over to ensure the last match of Sarah Hunter’s illustrious career ended in victory.
England are next in action on April 2 when Italy visit Franklin’s Gardens in Round 2.
Hunter led the side out on her 141st and final appearance and it took less than nine minutes for England to cross for their first points of the Championship as MacDonald finished off a neat pass inside from Amber Reed, who then converted the score.
Scotland responded positively to going behind and were close to a try of their own when Emma Orr dived for the line but was inches short, with Zoe Aldcroft in close attendance to hold up her momentum.
The hosts were more clinical at the other end and after Packer had been tackled a couple of metres out, the ball was worked swiftly through the hands for Cokayne to go over in the corner.
MacDonald then doubled her personal tally with a stunning solo effort from inside her own half and the bonus point was secured when Heard, on as an early replacement for Reed, dotted down on 27 minutes.
England’s traditionally strong rolling maul was responsible for the fifth try, Cokayne applying the finishing touch, as the Red Roses took a 31-0 lead into the break following a first half which saw them make 490 metres from 108 carries, with 36 defenders beaten.
The second period began as the first had ended, with England on the front foot, and Cleall quickly made the pressure count by powering over.
Kabeya added try number seven on 49 minutes following an incisive break by Abby Dow and the power of England’s pack carried Packer over for her first.
The hour mark saw the 10,053 spectators inside Kingston Park rise to give Hunter a standing ovation as she departed the scene shortly after two players at the opposite ends of their Red Roses journey, Liz Crake and Kelsey Clifford, had been brought on for their debuts.
There was no let-up in the home side’s intensity and Packer completed her treble with two quickfire tries from driving mauls.
Chloe Rollie’s late score got Scotland on the scoreboard and she came close to adding another after a fine individual run but good work at the breakdown earned England a penalty as Simon Middleton’s side closed out a convincing win.
England: 15. Abby Dow, 14. Jessica Breach, 13. Lagi Tuima, 12. Amber Reed, 11. Claudia MacDonald, 10. Holly Aitchison, 9. Lucy Packer, 1. Mackenzie Carson, 2. Amy Cokayne, 3. Sarah Bern, 4. Zoe Aldcroft, 5. Poppy Cleall, 6. Sadia Kabeya, 7. Marlie Packer (CC), 8. Sarah Hunter (CC)
Replacements: 16. Lark Davies, 17. Liz Crake, 18. Kelsey Clifford, 19. Catherine O'Donnell, 20. Sarah Beckett, 21. Ella Wyrwas, 22. Tatyana Heard, 23. Emma Sing
Scotland: 15. Chloe Rollie, 14. Coreen Grant, 13. Emma Orr, 12. Meryl Smith, 11. Francesca McGhie, 10. Helen Nelson (VC), 9. Caity Mattinson; 1. Leah Bartlett, 2. Lana Skeldon, 3. Christine Belisle, 4. Lyndsay O’Donnell, 5. Louise McMillan, 6. Rachel Malcolm (C), 7. Rachel McLachlan, 8. Evie Gallagher
Replacements: 16. Jodie Rettie, 17. Anne Young, 18. Elliann Clarke, 19. Eva Donaldson, 20. Eilidh Sinclair, 21. Mairi McDonald, 22. Beth Blacklock, 23. Liz Musgrove