England defeated Scotland 80-0 at Twickenham on Saturday to become the first team to complete a Women's Six Nations Grand Slam with a maximum number of points since the introduction of bonus points in 2017.
Clearly benefitting from the award of full-time contracts in the lead-up to the championship, England racked up their fifth consecutive bonus-point victory with another scintillating display of attacking rugby that brought them 12 tries in front of another record home crowd of 13,278.
Sarah Beckett got the ball rolling in the second minute before tournament top try-scorer Jess Breach added two more, either side of Natasha Hunt's try, to take her overall tally to nine - four more than team-mate Sarah Bern. Poppy Cleall bagged a brace, too, dotting down either side of half-time to double her return for the championship. With Amy Cokayne also scoring from close range, England led 45-0 at the break.
Bern got England's first try of the second half 10 minutes in, while further scores followed from Cleall and experienced duo, Sara Hunter and Emily Scarratt, and Catherine O'Donnell as England fell just short of eclipsing their record win against the Scots of 89-0 back in 2011.
The win does not affect either team's ranking with England unchanged in second and Scotland in 12th.
FURLAN SPARKS PARTY IN PADOVA
Manuela Furlan scored the bonus point try and signs autographs for Italy’s next generation of players who will have seen what this team are capable of. Brilliant for Italian women’s rugby. pic.twitter.com/RFGgXKFkb2— Nick Heath (@nickheathsport) March 17, 2019
Italy achieved a historic high of second in the Women's Six Nations table - their previous best was third in 2015 - after downing fallen champions France 31-12 in Padova.
The Azzurre went into the match knowing they to beat France with a bonus-point and deny Les Bleues any match points to claim the runners-up spot behind England and they held a slender 8-5 lead at half-time thanks to a try from Sofia Stefan and three points from the boot of Michela Sillari. In between those scores, Caroline Boujard crossed for her third try of the championship.
Two penalties from Sillari and a try from Melissa Bettoni saw Italy stretch further in front before Ian Jason replied for Les Bleues, Jessy Trémoulière converting to spark hopes of a comeback. However, Beatrice Rigoni and Manuela Furlan, with the all-important fourth try, secured Italy their first win over the French in four years.
As well as an unprecedented second place in the Women's Six Nations table, the victory sends the Azzurre above Australia in the World Rugby Women's Rankings to sixth, their highest-ever ranking. France, meanwhile, fall one place to fourth, with Canada the beneficiaries, after losing 0.96 of a rating point.
No doubt buoyed by events the previous day, Wales' women followed up the men's Grand Slam-clinching victory over Ireland with their second win of the campaign, defeating their Irish counterparts 24-5 in the battle between the two mid-table teams at Cardiff Arms Park.
Jess Kavanagh and Carys Phillips scored tries before the break and Beth Lewis and Jasmine Joyce added two more in the second half against an Irish side that only had Beibhinn Parsons' 14th minute try to show for their efforts.
The victory ensures Wales stay in eighth place in the rankings with an improved score of 75.29 points, while the loss of 0.89 of a point puts Ireland below Spain and into 10th.
Meanwhile, Czechia's 15-0 win against Finland in the Rugby Europe Women's Trophy has seen them climb one place to 52nd and relegated the Philippines to the bottom of the rankings. Finland fall below India to 48th.
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