By Megan Armitage | Sarah Hunter rounded off her decorated rugby career by helping steer England to an emphatic 58-7 victory over Scotland in their Women’s Six Nations opener.

Marlie Packer’s hat-trick fired Simon Middleton’s resurgent 10-try Red Roses further into the history books they clinched their 20th successive victory in the Championship, the longest sequence of triumphs in its history.

Both sides left Newcastle with several key learnings as England continue the defence of their Grand Slam title and Scotland bid to bounce back against Wales in Edinburgh next weekend.

Here’s what we learned from this weekend’s action.

Women’s Six Nations results

  • Wales 31-5 Ireland
  • England 58-7 Scotland
  • Italy 12-22 France

Driving mauls remain England’s most potent weapon

The dominance of the Red Roses’ driving maul is not going anywhere. Middleton’s side powered to a rampant 10 tries in Newcastle, the majority of which came from their characteristic key asset.

Despite losing out on the World Cup trophy out in New Zealand last year, Middleton’s side came out in the opening game of their Women’s Six Nations and proved that their strength had not gone anywhere.

Two of Packer’s second-half tries came through England pressing as the back-row forced her way over the line in the right-hand corner. The Red Roses’ driving maul is once again one to look out for as they continue their Championship campaign.

Scotland’s youthful backline set for bright future

Bryan Easson named a relatively youthful side for his team’s campaign opener, with his centre and wing pairings possessing just 11 caps between them.

But there was plenty of spark in the side that seized multiple opportunities against the defending Grand Slam champions and were rewarded in a dazzling final 10 minutes of play.

Emma Orr, claiming her seventh cap in Newcastle, lit the fire early for Scotland as she linked up with an experienced Helen Nelson to go close in the first half.

Francesca McGhie sparkled on debut and embarked on a weaving run down the left-hand side just before the break.

It was full-back Chloe Rollie who scored Scotland’s try in the second half as she stormed over with just six minutes to go after debutant Beth Blacklock led the way with a line break.

Powerhouse Packer proves too hot to handle

Packer racked up a massive 125m meters as she helped herself to a hat-trick at Kingston Park.

The back row shone as co-captain as she steered play within the first half before storming to her treble in the final 40 minutes.

Deservedly named Player of the Match, Packer was the playmaker in the opening minutes with two carries that pushed England within scoring distance.

She was at the forefront once more for Amy Cokayne’s first, almost dotting down under the sticks before feeding the ball wide for Cokayne to grab the points instead.

Scotland show signs of improvement

Scotland skipper Rachel Malcolm acknowledged her team’s improvement following their Rugby World Cup performance last year, hailing their final moments of attacking prowess.

In a threatening final 10 minutes of play, Scotland built on a series of carries before Rollie crossed for their single score of the game and Nelson added the extras.

Easson’s side immediately leapt back into action and used their momentum to go close once more through Rollie, but the full-back fell just short.

With the clock quickly ticking down and no time for another score, Scotland definitely impressed in a final effort full of resilience and determination.

Newcastle salutes home hero Hunter

As the sun set on an evening of England dominance in Newcastle, it also marked the end of Hunter’s illustrious career as a Red Rose.

England’s most capped player left the field to a standing ovation in the 58th minute after earning her 141st appearance over a decorated 16-year stint for England.

Hunter grew up just a few miles from the gates of Kingston Park, making it a retirement party to remember in the north-east.

In her final game, Hunter proved why she has been at the heart of England’s most historic era as she anchored her team from the back of the scrum and controlled play in the midfield.

Noting that their performance was better than any training session they had in the past few weeks, Hunter left the pitch in the “perfect” ending to her career as she passed the captain baton onto roommate and long-time friend Packer.

Wales secure a bonus-point win with Ireland lacking Test experience

By Ben Hart

FIVE-STAR Wales also made a statement in the opening game of the Women’s Six Nations.

What looked set to be an even contest against Ireland turned into a convincing win for the hosts, who clinched the bonus point inside 32 minutes.

Professional contracts were first dished to Wales players on the eve of the 2022 Championship and judging by this display, they are starting to reap the rewards.

Welsh pack mean business

The saying goes that forwards win matches and backs determine by how much and this was certainly true in Cardiff.

Wales refused to allow Ireland to settle, knocking them off their stride at the set piece and in the loose.

Whether it was the pinpoint throwing of Kelsey Jones, the tireless work rate of Georgia Evans or the unstoppable carries from Sisilia Tuipulotu, Ireland had no answer and a tally of three tries directly from lineouts reflected the dominance of the Welsh pack.

Captain fantastic

Handed the captaincy at the World Cup, centre Hannah Jones is a leader in every sense for Wales.

The Gloucester-Hartpury star has been a fixture in the side since her debut in 2015 and her experience shone through on both sides of the ball.

She made a team-high 65 metres from six carries and looked solid in defence, weighing in with four tackles.

Jones capped a brilliant individual performance with a score and the way her teammates swarmed in to join in the celebrations only served to further illustrate her popularity.

Cobwebs for Ireland to dust off

This was Ireland’s first fixture since August and only their third since last year’s Championship. That lack of Test practice showed as they were caught cold by a relentless Welsh side.

By the time Wales prop Tuipulotu crossed for the hosts’ fifth shortly after half time, the game was up. But they rolled their sleeves up in the closing stages, with Nichola Fryday scoring late on – just reward for their resilience in a second half which could have got away from them.

Cardiff cauldron awaits for England

Wales’ previous record home crowd had stood for 20 years but was smashed at Arms Park as 4,962 fans descended on the capital.

They have just one home fixture left and while England will arrive as heavy favourites in Round 3, Wales are sure to prove tricky customers.

Fans flooded onto the pitch at full time to congratulate their stars in a rare but heart-warming sight which suggested there could be something special brewing.

Big future for Tuipulotu

What better way to mark your first appearance in the Championship than a try and the Player of the Match award?

Big things have been expected of Tuipulotu for some time and she finally got her chance with Donna Rose sidelined.

To say she seized it would be an understatement and there could be more to come, with head coach Ioan Cunningham reiterating his belief that the 19-year-old has the potential to become one of the best props in the world.

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