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Key Battles: How the Red Roses dominated the Wallaroos

By Matt Merritt
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 20: Hannah Botterman of England scores a try during the WXV1 Match between England and Australia Wallaroos at Sky Stadium on October 20, 2023 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Mark Tantrum - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

WXV 1 Kicked off with a ferocious encounter between England and Australia that saw the world number one Red Roses dominate almost from the first whistle, winning by 42 points to the Wallaroos’ seven. Despite missing a number of big-name players, and with incoming head coach John Mitchell looking on, the Red Roses laid down a challenge to the rest of the competition. Here are a few of the key battles and why England won them.

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Front Row – Advantage England
What a first 40 for Hannah Botterman. She was everywhere, opening the scoring, threatening at the breakdown and a constant thorn in Australia’s side. She showed her set piece nous too, bending the Australian scrum and securing a penalty that gave her team a scoring opportunity. Connie Powell had a great game too, some nice breaks and solid contributions in the set piece.
For the Wallaroos front row it was a quieter day at the office. They held their own in the scrum against their opposition despite being the smaller group but struggled to make their mark in the loose.

Second Row – Advantage England
Australia’s Annabelle Codey was yellow carded for a shoulder to the head in the first half, and in the second half received another for a similar offence.
Her opposite numbers showed their usual lineout dominance and efficiently controlled the ball in the loose. Replacement Sarah Beckett saw yellow in the closing seconds, bearing the brunt for repeated infringements by her team defending their line.

Back Row – Advantage England
The battle of the sevens was the highlight in the backrow. Emily Chancellor was one of the best players in a green shirt, but Marlie Packer eclipsed even her, scoring two tries, winning turnovers and dominating the psychological battle.
Ashley Marsters, off the bench after 50 minutes, opened the scoring for the Wallaroos with a deft step through the English defence.

Half backs – Advantage England
Holly Aitchison’s best performance in the 10 shirt came at the right time to crown this new tournament. Flawless distribution, some powerful running and 100% accuracy from the tee showed exactly why her coaches have kept her in that spot. Ella Wyrwas scored her first international try and was a constant pest.
Layne Morgan distributed well for the Wallaroos and, prior to having to leave the field with what looked to be an elbow injury, Carys Dallinger showed some deft touches to create space for her team.

Centres – Tied
It was a suspiciously quiet first half for Meg Jones, but alongside Tatyana Heard she quietly got on with her business, biding her time before popping up to increase the English lead in the second half.
Arabella Mackenzie kept her team ticking even when the game was lost and stepped up as their chief playmaker once Dallinger left the field.

Outside Backs – Advantage England
Australia’s Ivania Wong showed flashes of what a danger she could be, though her finest moment came early in the second half when her searing pace saved Australia from conceding another try by rescuing a loose ball close to the try line.
Jess Breach scored a trademark try for the Red Roses while Abby Dow seemed determined to snuff out every Australia attack on the flanks.

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