England A 41 Italy A 11
England Women A maintained their clean sheet in the European Championships in Madrid on Monday after an impressive 41-11 victory over Italy A.
The development side ran in seven tries, including braces of scores for Saracens’ Claire Allan and Worcester’s Katherine Merchant. England A vice-captain and Thirsk fly-half Katy McLean kicked three conversions.
The win comes following Saturday’s tournament opening 62-0 win over Russia and puts England A top of their group. They next take on tournament hosts Spain on Wednesday hoping to secure a place in Saturday’s final.
England A weren’t, however, the first to open the scoring with the Red Roses conceding an early penalty which Italy, a side including 17 players from this season’s RBS 6 Nations, duly converted after just 30 seconds.
England bounced back straight away though with Saracens fullback Claire Allan opening her try tally account with a second minute touchdown. The score came after a kick return and some quick hands which saw McLean, Wasps’ Michaela Staniford and Thirsk’s Georgina Roberts set-up Allan in the corner.
24 minutes later and England had moved into a 12-3 lead with Worcester wing Merchant running in for the first of her two tries. An England scrum created the score after Leos’ No.8 Sarah Beale drove from the back before some quick ball set-up Merchant. McLean converted.
Amber Penrith rounded off a good first-half for England with a superb try after a line-out and some quick ball through the backs handed Penrith possession. The centre then beat three defenders to score. Only an injury-time try for Italian second-row Flavia Serverin reduced England’s lead to 17-8 at the break.
Italy’s late score didn’t, however, put England off their stride and Staniford put England back in charge with a 46th minute try. This time some good work at the breakdown by the forwards saw the ball move from the right to the left wing with a quick pass from Roberts setting up Staniford, whose nice solo break, saw her cross. McLean converted handing England A a 24-8 lead.
Merchant claimed her second try on 48 minutes after an England scrum in Italy’s 22. McLean converted and although Italy added a 50th minute penalty Allan was soon on the scoreboard again. Some good place kicking by McLean saw England turnover Italy with England then driving forward. A good break from Sonia Green saw the Saracens flanker offload to Allan to touchdown.
McLean missed the conversion but it didn’t matter with substitute Vicky Jackson of Lichfield having the final word with England seventh try.
England A head coach Amanda Bennett said: “With 17 Six Nations players in Italy’s squad this was certainly a very strong and experienced A team. We knew it would be a tough game and it was. We expected them to challenge us and they were physical, organised and put some pressure on us.
“We were always in control and I am pleased by that. The tries were all scored by the backs and that shows we were able to move the ball around better today. Katy McLean put us in some good positions to put pressure on them. We played better today than we did against Russia and I am delighted because of that.”
1 Sophie Hemming (Clifton), 2 Samantha Dale (Worcester), 3 Rochelle Clark (Henley) (c), 4 Rebecca Essex (Richmond), 5 Emma Dresser (Lichfield), 6 Leah Carey (Lichfield), 7 Sonia Green (Saracens), 8 Sarah Beale (Leos), 9 Georgina Rozario (Plymouth Albion), 10 Katy McLean (VC) (Thirsk), 11 Amber Penrith (Cardiff), 12 Georgina Roberts (Thirsk), 13 Michaela Staniford (Wasps), 14 Katherine Merchant (Worcester), 15 Claire Allan (Saracens). Replacements: 16 Emma Layland (Richmond), 17 Rosemarie Crowley (Lichfield), 18 Natalie Binstead (Wasps), 19 Sarah Hunter (Lichfield), 20 Harriet Slynn (Richmond), 21 Shelley Rae (Wasps), 22 Vicki Jackson (Lichfield).
Tries: Allan (2), Merchant (2), Penrith, Staniford, Jackson
Conversions: McLean (3)
Substitutions: Hunter on for Carey (48), Binstead on for Essex (57), Crowley on for Hemming (64), Slynn on for Rozario (67), Jackson on for Allan (67)
England A European Championship fixtures:
Saturday April 28th England A v Russia kick-off 3pm BST, WON 62-0
Monday April 30th England A v Italy, kick-off 2pm BST, WON 41-11
Wednesday May 2nd, England A v Spain, kick-off 11am BST
Saturday May 5th, Finals day TBC
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Tang Xijing (CHN) and bronze medallist Angelina Melnikova (RUS).
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