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Middleton credits England Women’s defensive display

Middleton credits England Women’s defensive display

England coach Simon Middleton hailed his side’s defensive effort as the Red Roses shut out Ireland on Sunday to stay on track for a second consecutive Grand Slam.

The hosts had a bonus point wrapped up by the interval at Doncaster’s Castle Park after four tries in a first half Middleton described as ‘terrific’.

Captain Sarah Hunter got the ball rolling with the opening score and the sell-out 5,000 crowd were treated to further tries from Abby Dow, Jess Breach and Vicky Fleetwood in the opening 40 minutes.

Ireland’s defence tightened up after the break and limited the hosts to just one second half try, Sarah McKenna going over on the hour to take the winning margin to 27-0, and the Red Roses coach was honest about the contrast between his side’s performance either side of the whistle.

“It was a really tough game and both sides defended fantastically well, I’m absolutely thrilled with the way that we defended,” Middleton said.

“In the first half, we played some great rugby, attacked really well, attacked in different ways and gave ourselves a platform to play off and kick on from.

“But we didn’t execute in the second half and from an attacking point of view that was very disappointing.
“We didn’t look fluid in the second half but at the same time we put a first half together.”

The win keeps England top of the Women’s Six Nations table, three points clear of France.

Hunter, who led the side to away victories in the first two matches of this year’s Championship, added: “We’ve been chomping at the bit to get back on home soil and there’s no better place to come than Doncaster as we’ve been a few times and it feels like home.

“We are a bit frustrated with our performance.

“I can’t fault our defence, I thought our defence was outstanding, but we were probably a little bit loose with the ball.

“We knew Ireland were going to be tough, they frustrated us and maybe we didn’t respect them enough.

“We won, we’re happy with the win and we’ve got to keep winning to win the championship, but we’re going to have to look at that and see where we need to sharpen up a little bit, especially in attack.”

Following next weekend’s break, England host Wales at Twickenham Stoop on March 7 before rounding off their campaign in Italy on March 15.