England and France went undefeated on day one of the 2023 Six Nations Under-18s Women’s Festival at Wellington College.
Hosts England got the day underway with a battling win over Wales, backing that up with a dominant victory over Scotland.
France were made to work for their win over Ireland, before impressing against Italy as Ireland ended the day with a win over the Italians.
The three-day festival provides a platform for the best under-18s players in the Six Nations to play international level rugby, with sides playing two 35-minute games on the first day before taking part in one 70-minute match on the final day.
England 10-0 Wales
England’s relentless pressure helped them to a 10-0 win over Wales in the opening game of the festival.
The Red Roses were made to wait for their opening score, with Annabel Meta crashing over in the eighth minute but play was called back for a knock-on in the build-up.
Ten minutes later, Connie Clarke latched on to a perfectly-weighted kick from fly-half Millie Hyett, leaving the wing nothing else to do put place the ball down as Aspinall missed a narrow conversion.
Wales then enjoyed a period of sustained possession in England’s half, the brightest move finding Nia Fajeyisan in space, the centre then used quick hands before Red Roses pressure forced a knock on.
England ended the game with a dominance their try deserved as Aspinall, now acting as scrum-half, took the ball from the scrum and raced out wide to score, before missing another tight conversion to bring the game to a close.
England 21-0 Scotland
England were straight back into the action as they produced a strong performance to defeat Scotland 21-0.
Scotland enjoyed much of the early possession with fly-half Hannah Dunnett and wing Nicole Flynn producing strong breaks but were missing clinical final passes.
The Red Roses crossed for their first try in the 10th minute as Ella Cromack evaded several Scotland tackles to run under the posts.
England then capitalised on Scotland going down to 14 players to score through Lauren Bailey after strong carrying from Ala Lutui.
Natalee Evans then put the game out of sight of Scotland in the 21st minute with Cromack involved again, working the ball out wide before delaying her pass to set up Evans perfectly to dot down.
Wales 17-7 Scotland
Wales responded well from their loss to England with a 17-7 win over Scotland, opening the scoring inside two minutes.
Erin Jones crashed over after excellent intercept work from Katie Sims before the Scotland defence fought back as Wales reached their try line numerous times, but were twice held up.
Wales eventually went over again in the 12th minute as scrum-half Sian Jones capitalised on Scotland slowly moving the ball away from the back of the scrum.
The ball was then worked through the phases before hooker Abi Meyrick crashed down for her side’s second score of the day as Carys Hughes converted from distance.
Hannah Lane got a well-deserved try with nine minutes remaining as the ball was worked out wide to the winger, who steamed over for Wales’ final try.
Scotland had the last say however, as Freya MacColl broke clear of the Wales defence to sprint under the posts for her side’s first points of the festival.
France 24 – 15 Ireland
France triumphed 24-15 in an enthralling contest with Ireland, making a fast start as No.8 Lise Geneste weaved her way over after two minutes.
Les Bleues had a second six minutes later as slick passing between Charlie Gauyat and Suliana Sivi found Maya Grat in space and with pace to fly over.
Ireland’s heads did not drop and they responded emphatically, working patiently through the phases before Alma Obehi Atagamen crashed over to get her side on the scoreboard.
Try followed try as France worked the ball beautifully from left to right and into the hands of centre Noa Coudre who raced over.
Ireland used power rather than pace for their second score as Kelly Burke dotted down from a strong rolling maul.
With Ireland nine points behind, France looked to put the game out of sight, stealing a lineout in Ireland’s 22 and working the ball out to Garance Merle who had acres of space to run into to score.
Ireland were not done yet, however, as Roisin Maher spun over at the end of more patient play to cut the deficit in what ended up being the final score of an action-packed game.
France 55-0 Italy
France picked up where they left off in their 55-0 win over Italy, combining pace and passing to a devastating effect.
Kelly Arbey was grinning with delight as she ran over for the first score of the game, the full-back receiving the ball out wide and sprinting over.
Arbey then turned provider as she provided the link between more great build-up play from Suliana Sivi and Léa Trollier who dashed over for France’s second.
Les Bleues quickly had a third as a crossfield kick from Paola Castello found Alice Grandhome perfectly who dotted down to move France 17-0 ahead.
Sivi then got the try her workrate over the two games warranted, sprinting 100 metres as France played out from their own tryline.
Castello secured a quick brace, the first seeing her race from her own half before weaving her way round Italy’s defence for her second.
France closed out the game with scores from replacement Aelig Tregouet, Arbey and a final try from Mariam Niakate to seal their second win of the day.
Ireland 10-0 Italy
Ireland rounded out the day with a 10-0 win over Italy in a competitive contest.
Niamh Murphy put Ireland ahead early on, as her side followed France’s lead with quick passing moving the ball from right to left.
Murphy then spun out of a last-ditch tackle from the Italian defence to dot down as Caitriona Finn narrowly missed the conversion.
The crowd at Wellington College then got their first real sight of Italy’s attacking talent and it was fluid, but ultimately Ireland turned the ball over and were able to reset.
Ireland scored their second try after 13 minutes after fantastic work from Emma Brogan who weaved her way towards the tryline before setting up Beth Buttimer to dot down.
Italy came closest to scoring in the dying seconds as Ireland were reduced to 14, but Mannini spilt the ball forward to deny them their first points of the festival.