Dow leads England Women’s rout of USA in perfect end to dominant year

It is an intriguing thought. If the Red Roses can rack up four straight autumn international wins with consummate ease, what might they be capable of at next year’s World Cup in New Zealand?

Simon Middleton’s side reduced USA to rubble in front of a lively Worcester crowd of 7,515, capping a perfect end to 2021 and equalling the men’s team’s record of 18 successive Test victories.

It means England Women have scored 37 tries and 239 points during autumn wins over New Zealand, twice, Canada and USA, enhancing their status as the world’s No 1 ranked side as they bid to become world champions in less than a year’s time.

They breached their opponents’ defence 15 times here, running amok on a day when positives emerged everywhere for Middleton. The Red Roses’ head coach said: “We had high hopes for this series but I just said to the girls in the circle that we haven’t just improved our game, we’ve improved the women’s game. We’ve shown what’s possible when you back the girls and you’re given the resources and you put them in the right environment. They’re just fantastic players so full credit to them.

“It’s taken some time to build this so what we’ve got to do is make sure we continue to do so. We’re definitely heading in the right direction.”

There will be greater challenges for England. There has to be. It cannot be this easy. But there is an energy and a self-belief about this team and Middleton spoke endlessly after the game about their desire in attack and defence.

Certainly from the moment the Harlequins prop Vickii Cornborough powered over the line from another expertly executed lineout, a feature of England’s displays this autumn, in the second minute, this was one-way traffic. After Cornborough’s opener, Sixways had its breath taken away courtesy of a stunning individual score from the full-back Abby Dow.

The Wasps player collected possession and showed remarkable pace to saunter past a clutch of leaden-footed USA defenders on a diagonal left-hand run which took her all the way over the visitors’ line.

Last Monday, Dow was nominated for the International Rugby Players’ Women’s try of the year for her scintillating effort against France in April. This was another collector’s item.

When England’s third try arrived it was a moment to savour for the Worcester wing Lydia Thompson. Quick hands following a well-worked scrum for England saw them stretch the USA defence, before Dow showed intelligence to send Thompson over in the right corner on her 50th appearance for the Red Roses. The try was rapturously received by Thompson’s home crowd, but USA finally steadied themselves and began to match England’s physicality at the breakdown.

Holly Aitchison races clear to score the 13th try for England
Holly Aitchison races clear to score the 13th try for England. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

Crucially, however, they lacked the quality to unlock England’s defence. The hosts lost their rhythm when they conceded a handful of penalties and spurned another try-scoring opportunity when Thompson dropped Dow’s pass on the edge of USA’s 22-metre line, but Lark Davies and Leanne Infante added further scores to make it 29-0 at the break.

The procession increased in the second half as Helena Rowland raced inside the left channel before sending Lagi Tuima clear to score after just 42 seconds. Zoe Aldcroft, the captain, nipped through a gap for an opportunistic score and Heather Cowell went over before Sarah Bern, the impressive replacement prop, scored twice.

Davies and Thompson also crossed the line again and Connie Powell capped her debut with a try. Holly Aitchison, the Saracens centre, also got her name on the scoresheet on a day where positives emerged everywhere for Middleton.

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The competition for places within his squad is fierce and a number of players missed out here, giving much cause for optimism as England seek to retain their Women’s Six Nations title before attention turns to the rescheduled World Cup.

Dow, who was the player of the match after an outstanding display, said: “We rarely play four games in a row so to be able to go out there and perform like that and to keep the tempo that we wanted is just incredible. It’s been a long process but all the training we’ve been doing is clearly paying off.”

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