England started their WXV 1 campaign with a win, beating Australia 42-7 at Sky Stadium in Wellington.
A well-drilled England proved too good in an eventful WXV 1 opening match in Wellington, running in six tries in their 42-7 victory over Australia.
Scrum-half Ella Wrywas had a debut test start to remember, scoring a first half try and setting up another in the second in a very assured display.
From the outset, it was clear that the Red Roses were keen to use their much-vaunted lineout to attack. However, the diversity of how they used it was impressive. England weren’t relying on the effective drive and instead sent Hannah Botterman over for the first try off a slick move that saw the prop wrap around the back to take the ball and dive over after five minutes.
The Wallaroos defence for the next period was very tight, and it took some great work at the breakdown for England to strike again. A turnover led to the ball out wide to Jess Breach, who beat two defenders to get a pass inside for Wyrwas to score.
Australian wing Maya Stewart was injured making a tackle in the lead up to Wyrwas’ try, meaning that Desiree Miller came on for her test debut a little bit earlier than anticipated.
Georgina Friedrichs had a few excellent touches as the Wallaroos mounted a few promising attacks, but the English defence was tough and only allowed the Australians into the 22 once in the entire first half.
A great offload by Zoe Alcroft and good pace by Connie Powell drew a ruck penalty that was kicked to the corner, but fantastic defence by the Wallaroos pack denied a drive that looked destined to score. However, they could not repeat the effort shortly after, not helped by Annabelle Codey being shown a yellow card for a high tackle.
The Red Roses made good use of their one-player advantage and drove captain Marlie Packer over, then the hard running Breach added another off another lineout move that saw her unmarked out wide to make the score 28-0 at halftime.
Packer made it a double off another lineout drive when play got underway again, but the Wallaroos' tenacity paid off shortly after. After receiving a string of penalties, scrum-half Layne Morgan took a quick tap and got the ball away to Ashley Marsters. The replacement loose forward threw a huge dummy and crashed over for a try that was converted by Carys Dallinger.
However, any hopes of a comeback were made considerably tougher when Codey was shown a red card for a late hit on Wrywas when the scrum-half made a lovely, jinking run to set up Megan Jones to score next to the posts.
Australia did well to defend despite being a player down for the remainder of the match, even threatening with several attacking lineouts, but the deficit was always going to be too great. The match finished with them hammering away on England's line, unlucky not to score another try.
Interim English coach Louis Deacon will be pleased with what he saw from his side, most notably a flawless goal kicking performance by Mastercard Player of the Match Holly Aitchison. The English fly-half controlled open play well and will clearly be a key part of their WXV 1 campaign.