What we learned as Wales battled hard in defeat to impressive Red Roses

Cardiff Arms Park
Cardiff Arms Park. Image Tom Pritchard

by Tom Pritchard

ROWLAND Phillips’ Wales went down to a 51-12 defeat to an England side whose experience was there for all to see at Cardiff Arms Park.

What were the key takeaways from the game, as the Red Roses remain on course for a 14th Grand Slam?

England’s experience showed as Wales were put to the sword

This was an England team used to winning against Wales, who have only beaten the Red Rose twice since 2009.

Their stranglehold over their rivals was never in danger of being broken in Cardiff, as they used their forwards effectively to create space for the backs, who were clinical when the chances arrived.

This Wales team is still in its development stage under head coach Rowland Phillips, and they showed glimpses of what they’re capable of; wing Jess Kavanagh’s try was impressive as they beat numerous defenders to score, while the forwards put in a big shift to try and earn the hard yards.

The world champions, however, were always in control. Their superior power up front meant that they were able to play the game on their own terms; with prop Sarah Bern in particular having a strong game in the tight, and picking up a brace of tries for her efforts.

Prop Bern puts in stand-out all-court display

It’s not too often that you will see a tight-head prop score two tries in the same game, something which England’s 21-year-old front row Bern has now achieved.

The Gloucester-Hartpury player scored a try against France in the 2017 Rugby World Cup semi-final, winning player of the match as England reached the final.

In modern day rugby, it is not enough for a front-row forward to have scrummaging as their sole trait, they need to be able to contribute in other facets of the game. Bern did this with aplomb.

She contributed towards providing a solid platform for her backs to attack from, which was a notable difference between the two sides.

Head coach Simon Middleton will have been delighted with his tight head, who was denied a hat-trick of tries after a TMO referral adjudged that she had knocked the ball on before placing it down over the line.

Wales had a healthy amount of possession after the break, however they never really looked like breaking down a well-organised England defence.

Second half performance provides encouragement for Wales

Heading into the changing rooms at half time, Wales supporters will have feared a similar onslaught after the break, however the hosts came out fighting and began to have more joy in possession.

They were able to speed up the ball recycling and up the tempo of their carries, which allowed them to gain extra yards which they were finding hard to come by in the opening 40 minutes.

The pack put in an admirable shift to try and drive the team into good attacking positions, with the only disappointments being the creativity with ball in hand and the killer instinct which was on full display from the 14-time champions.

Against an England defence which was well-drilled and stubborn, Wales could have looked to put a few more kicks through to try and get themselves upfield.

The character they showed after the break gives them a lot to work with ahead of their trip to Scotstoun Stadium to face Scotland in two weeks time.

They have some very talented players in the back line, the likes of Hannah Bluck, Jasmine Joyce and Elinor Snowshill are all capable of flourishing in a team that is on front foot with the initiative.

The challenge for Wales in the final two games of the championship is to try and involve these kind of players more often, players who have the ability to produce something out of nothing.