Although my mood was slightly flattened after Wasps losing to a last gasp try against Clermont in their European tie, I've got to say this game is the highlight of my weekend. England's trajectory has remained ever impressive over the last year, winning the decisive double over the French and looking back to their best. Scotland on the other hand are a little more of an unknown quantity; patchy form with sprinklings of individual brilliance, could that be enough to carry them to an unexpected win?
Another Scarratt Masterclass
What superlatives can you use that hasn't already been said about Emily Scarratt? Perhaps the most naturally gifted Rugby player On Earth, Scarratt's impressive athleticism and match intensity is next to none. Scotland became fixated in keeping her out of the game, however, by trying to isolate her and target her, she actually became an absolute weapon. Quick offloads, decisive dummy runs and a clean pair of heels on the outside shoulder led Scarratt to multiple try assists. With Tuima on her inside, that's an absolutely frightening combination that could rival anyone in the international game. Tuima's deft passing and hot step allowed her to constantly get on the outside shoulder of her opposite number with Scarratt offering support on the outside. Other than a simple miss-kick, Scarratt slotted her place kicks well.
Packer Rules The Waves
It's easy to dumb down Packers game as being an effective jackaler who also hits like a truck. However, Packer's presence around the breakdown is so important for the way England recycle ball. Little, off-hand blocks and handy positioning allowed Riley much more space than perhaps she deserved! If Packer hit the ruck, you know the ball was being recycled quickly, if she didn't, then she would sit opposite defensive players and act as smoke and mirrors for the half backs. Packer's leadership is also crucial to this sides constant improvements. We often see England get a little flustered or frustrated when expansive plays get disrupted, but Packer's work around the tight gives England a new dimension/option; a more patient England, is a better England.
Outside of a great passage in the second half, you had to feel like Scotland looked second best on every area. This was largely down to them constantly losing collisions. England bullied Scotland at the breakdown, bullied them in the line out, bullied them in the centres and bullied them in the driving maul. They just seemed to lack the physicality to match the strong strike runners in that England pack such as Ward and O'Donnell. You often saw England going on rampaging runs because of slipped tackles and forced double commits from Scottish forwards. In the backs, Scotland looked far more assured and pretty dangerous at times; they've got the gas and formation there, they just need the ball!
Discipline, Discipline, Discipline
Both sides need to improve their discipline throughout this competition. Three yellow cards, one red card, countless rucking penalties and silly mistakes in the tight led to both sides putting themselves under the kosh unnecessarily. It didn't help that both sides were pretty clinical when a woman up; England scored a handful of tries and Scotland scored a try during these periods. Also at tackle time, it began to get a little sloppy in the dying stages; silly high tackles out of frustration and desperation. Improvements will need to be made before they play the likes of France and Ireland next.
Lagi Tuima - A really classy operator, the majority of Englands attack stemmed from excellent lines and offloads she posed. Connected really well with Scarratt throughout.
Emily Scarratt - Attacked well, defended well kicked well... What more could you ask for?
Jess Breach - Absolute wheels! Took her chances really well and looks like a premier star in this England back line.
Vickii Cornborough - There's a reason she topped the stats, a crazy work rate paired wihh efficiency and impact. Great tackler, excellent with ball in hand and often mopped up slightly wayward England passing.
Poppy Cleall - A standout performance by the Number 8 and looked impressive as a strike runner on the outside shoulder.
Maori McDonald - Looked a little sluggish around the fringes but struggled predominantly down to constantly being on the back foot.
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