Pre-tournament favourites England had to fight all the way to record a victory over a gutsy Wales Women’s side on a heavy Pandy Park pitch at Cross Keys.
Some experts were expecting the World Cup finalists to brush aside Wales with ease but they were held to three tries – one of which was penalty try – in a 19-0 victory.
England dominated territory and possession in both halves but were left frustrated as Wales staunch defence repelled the onslaught.
The cross field wind and squally showers ensured running rugby was at a premium but England still attempted to keep the ball alive. Their big pack dominated the early exchanges but the backs couldn’t capitalise.
In the 14th minute Wales finally saw their line breached after the English forwards set up the platform for the backs to exploit. Speedster Fran Matthews was worked clear and the winger raced over wide out.
Wales were camped inside their own half throughout the first spell but dogged defence by backrow trio Jamie Kift, Sioned Harries and Lisa Newton kept the home side in the game.
England’s power at the set piece eventually told in the dying stages of the first half when the pack conceded a penalty try. Katy McLean’s conversion sent England in at the break 12-0 ahead.
The signs didn’t look good in the early stages of the second half when England roared over with one of the few flawless moves of the game.
The forwards once again produced quick ball for the backs and full back Daniella Waterman burst through the gap to run 25m unopposed to the try line. McLean added the extras to give England a 19-0 lead.
The front row of Catrin Edwards, Rhian Bowden and Caryl Thomas got through a truck load of work as Wales were forced to run the ball out from deep due to the howling wind. However England’s strong tackling meant Wales got no change out of the visitors defence.
The second half followed the same pattern as the first, with England dominating territory and possession but unable to break through. Wales hit a purple patch in the dying stages and camped on the England try-line but lock Shona Powell Hughes coughed up possession when charging into the heart of the defence.
England were able to clear the danger and held their line intact until the final whistle.
Scorers: England 19 – Tries – Fran Matthews, Pen try, Daniella Waterman. Cons: Katy McLean (2)