England beat Italy 55-0 to maintain Six Nations Grand Slam title hopes
|Women's Six Nations: England v Italy|
|England: (21) 55|
|Tries: Breach 2, Davies, Packer 2, Bern, Cornborough, Scott, Fleetwood Cons: Harrison, Mclean 4|
|Italy: (0) 0|
England scored nine tries to all but reclaim the Six Nations title with a crushing win over Italy in Exeter.
Italy frustrated England before Jess Breach, Lark Davies and Marlie Packer all scored first-half tries.
England shone after the break as Sarah Bern, Packer, Vickii Cornborough, Breach, Abbie Scott and Vicky Fleetwood all crossed in front of a record crowd.
The unbeaten Red Roses will win the Grand Slam if they beat bottom side Scotland at Twickenham next weekend.
France's bonus-point 47-17 win against Ireland later on Saturday left them four points behind England going into the last round of fixtures.
|Women's Six Nations|
There were 10,545 fans at Sandy Park - a record for a non-World Cup England home game.
"Running out to that crowd was incredible, every player had a massive smile on their face," captain Sarah Hunter said.
"To play at your home ground when you get 10,000 supporters here just for us - there's no other game they're here for - the feeling you get from them is great.
"We want to be trailblazers for future generations and as you go around after the game seeing a whole range and demographic of people, it's brilliant. It shows you what great shape our game is in."
An error-filled first half
The hosts made uncharacteristic errors as they bossed the first half. Leanne Riley went over after her charge-down of a fifth-minute Italian kick, but her try was chalked off for an offside in the build-up.
They did go over soon after as Breach dived into the right corner, but should have been pegged back when Beatrice Rigoni somehow managed to pass forward to Aura Muzzo when the pair were two on one in the England 22.
It was not until the closing minutes of the half that England struck again as hooker Davies went over from a driving maul and flanker Packer forced her way in from close range after a quick tap penalty.
England transformed at the break
England were a different side after the break as Bern went over a minute after the restart from a 20m lineout break, Packer got her second after good work by Hunter and Cornborough was forced over as England's forwards dominated.
Simon Middleton's side were also much more fluid and accurate with ball in hand - Breach's second try typifying that as she rounded off a great move to score her 18th try in just six England caps.
The Red Roses capped off the win when Scott and Fleetwood went over in the final minutes as England laid siege to the Italian line.
Few will bet against England completing the Grand Slam in Scotland next week - the Scots have not won a Six Nations game since 2010 and have scored just four tries in their 2019 campaign.
'We are a team in development'
"We're very much still in a development stage in many areas of our game and that showed a bit today," said England head coach Middleton.
"But we were excellent at times and what we did was recognise where our shortcomings were and went to our strengths, to make sure we got the job done.
"Full credit to the girls - at half-time they didn't let their frustrations get the better of them. They focused on performing and had a great start to the second half, and that really took the wind out of Italy's sails."
2014 World Cup winner Heather Fisher on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra
It's not a fair scoreline for Italy, they did really well. They were in the game for the first 50 minutes.
England have full-time contracts so they are going to be fitter, but I would love to see what Italy do next year in the Six Nations.
England are in a good place, they played well. They have had ups and downs and we can say they can always improve, but you can only play the opposition in front of you.
They will know what Scotland can do, but it's all about England and how good they can be. It's not about if England can win, it's about how many they can score.
England: McKenna; Breach, Scarratt, Harrison, Smith; Daley-Mclean, Riley; Cornborough, Davies, Bern, O'Donnell, A Scott, Beckett, Packer, Hunter (c).
Replacements: Fleetwood, Botterman, S Brown, Cleall, J Brown, Hunt, Burford, E Scott.
Italy: Furla; Muzzo, Sillari, Busato, Stefan; Rigoni, Barattin; Giacomoli, Gai, Ruzza, Duca, Arrighetti, Franco, Giordano.
Replacements: Cammarano, Turani, Tounesi, Fedrighi, Sberna, Sgorbini, Magatti, Sarasso.