USA Rugby

Red Roses Become Record Breakers Versus Eagles

Red Roses Become Record Breakers Versus Eagles

The Red Roses continue to show they are the clear-cut favorites headed into the World Cup.

Sep 7, 2022 by RugbyPass
Red Roses Become Record Breakers Versus Eagles

The Red Roses clinched a record breaking 24th test win in a row by thoroughly beating the United States 52-14 in Exeter on Saturday.

Heading into the fixture, England were already considered firm favorites, but the way they dominated on the field and on the score sheet means they are the team to beat heading into the World Cup.

The Red Roses are the number one-ranked team in the world, the reigning Six Nations champions, and demolished the Black Ferns—the reigning world champions—in two back-to-back fixtures in early autumn last year.

To top that all off, they have now broken the record for the most ever test wins in a row.

To put that achievement into perspective, the most consecutive wins accumulated by any men’s international team stands at 18 matches, reached by England and New Zealand.

The Red Roses have won a third more games than that number.

And with the World Cup looming, it’s hard to imagine any team quelling that winning run.

Especially since England have a point to prove after losing the previous World Cup final 41–32 to New Zealand in Belfast back in 2017.

Now is their time and they showed that over the weekend at Sandy Park, scoring eight tries in front of a 10,907 strong home crowd.

But they did struggle for rhythm in the opening exchanges, suffering from uncharacteristic handling errors and rare mistakes at the lineout. Even so, the Red Roses managed to control the tempo of the game and build up a lead on the score board through tries from scrum half Natasha Hunt and winger Jess Breach.

And then when Eagles second row Hallie Taufoou was shown a yellow, the Red Roses truly began to pull away as hooker Amy Cokayne scored her first of the evening from the back of a rolling maul.

Five minutes after that score, it was the turn of winger Claudia MacDonald to cross the whitewash, claiming England’s fourth of the day. Her intervention capped off what has been a truly stunning recovery from a potential career-ending injury.

MacDonald is only 10 months removed from suffering a broken neck which she thought had ended her career. Less than a year on and she has made a return to international rugby and was voted the player of the match against the United States, making her return to form that much sweeter.

“I wasn't necessarily planning for it so to be in the position to get a game under my belt was amazing and everything I could have wished for,” the 26-year-old said.

“The last 24 hours have been really emotional, feeling excited and relieved. I'm so grateful to be back in this place and I couldn't have loved being out on the pitch any more.

“[It's a] clean slate and we just go from here and see what happens.”

England entered the break with a comfortable 33-0 advantage and kicked on in the second half with further scores from Cockayne and MacDonald.

In truth, erroneous errors made by the Eagles gave the advantage to the Red Roses and squashed any chance of a comeback. However, to their credit, the United States did mount a late surge and came within meters of scoring when replacement scrum-half Leanne Infante made a crucial tackle intervention.

However, the visitors did eventually get their just reward when Hope Rogers bulldozed over from close range. Minutes later Shaunagh Brown was shown yellow for an illegal tackle and then things got worse for the hosts, as she was joined in the bin by Helena Rowland for a deliberate knock-on.

The infringement meant the United States were given a penalty try, but despite the blip in performance, England made sure to have the last say as Ellie Kildunne crossed the line late on to score the hosts’ eighth of the afternoon.

The overall display was far from vintage England, but was dominant nonetheless and set down a marker of their championship credentials heading into a busy autumn.

Red Roses head coach Simon Middleton, acutely aware that the day belonged to MacDonald, was full of praise for the returning winger.

“You think where Claud was six months ago and where she was today—you're just so grateful," Middleton told the BBC.

“She's a great athlete and she's really translated that into training, as have a number of players, then she backed that up in the game.”

Middleton has the unfortunate task of choosing the team that will travel to New Zealand for international rugby’s biggest tournament. He will announce his 32-player squad on 20 September and has an abundance of talent to choose from, which means there will invariably be some unlucky names not selected.  

“We learned some really valuable lessons today and we'll definitely make some decisions off the back of today,” Middleton added.

The Red Roses will play their second warm-up match against Wales in Bristol on the 14th September, before facing Fiji in their World Cup opener on the 8th October. 

Written by Stefan Frost