England will head back across the Irish Sea for Women's Rugby World Cup 2017 in August in buoyant mood after comprehensively defeating hosts Ireland 34-7 at a wet and windy Donnybrook in Dublin.
Both sides went into the game with four wins under their belt, but it was England who captured the Grand Slam and the title thanks to tries from Amy Wilson-Hardy, Laura Keates, Amy Cokayne, Emily Scarratt (pictured) and Lydia Thompson, with Scarratt adding nine points from the kicking tee.
“The difference between winning and not winning this match would have been huge. To win the Six Nations was a major target for us and we've done it with a Grand Slam,” said England coach Simon Middleton.
“It gives us a springboard and it keeps our winning mentality going. It also gives us confidence that what we’re doing is right. We know we can get better, fitter and stronger. That will be our next focus, but for now, I’m absolutely thrilled.”
After a tight first half in which both sides struggled to come to terms with the difficult conditions, they were only separated by five points following Wilson-Hardy's score out wide after a beautifully weighted miss pass from Scarratt.
But England produced a superb second-half performance to add the Six Nations title to the world crown they won in France in 2014.
They doubled their lead 14 minutes into the second half when prop Keates marked her 60th international appearance with a try. Scaratt then kicked a three-pointer after Mairead Coyne's yellow card for a deliberate knock-on and, three minutes later, the Red Roses capitalised further when Cokayne received an offload from Scarratt and raced away to score.
Ireland grabbed a late consolation through hooker Leah Lyons, but Thompson ensured England underlined the win and their superiority with a fifth try to lget their hands on the trophy for the first time since 2012.
FRANCE REPEL WELSH EFFORT
France bowed out on a high note with a 39-19 win over Wales in Brive to finish third in the final standings.
Two Jessy Tremouliere penalties either side of a try from Wales number eight Shona Powell-Hughes had put the home side into a 6-5 lead before Les Bleues extended that advantage to eight points with a close-range try from Audrey Forlani, which Tremouliere converted.
France scored again early in the second half through Caroline Ladagnous, her fifth of the Championship, before Wales hit back with the first of two tries for Amy Evans. Caroline Boujard kept Wales at arm's length with her side's third try but the visitors refused to concede defeat and scored again through Evans to bring them back to within eight points of Les Bleues.
But France were not going to be denied and Patricia Caricaburu went over from close range to finally put the game beyond reach and seal the bonus-point win with 10 minutes to go.
Once again, Tremouliere was on target with the conversion before the full-back capped a fine performance with France's fifth and final try in the closing stages to bring her tally for the night to 19 points.
SCOTLAND AT THE DOUBLE
Scotland claimed a second win in a Six Nations Championship for the first time since 2006 with a tense 14-12 victory over Italy at the Broadwood Stadium.
Italty raced into a 12-0 lead thanks to a brace of tries from hooker Melissa Betoni, but Scotland responded with a 30th-minute try from full-back Chloe Rollie, expertly converted by hooker Lana Skeldon.
Rollie then grabbed her second on the stroke of half-time, with Skeldon's second successful conversion ensuring it was the home side who led at the turn.
Despite numerous chances, Scotland were unable to post any more points in the second half, but strong defence ensured their two-point lead was never seriously tested.
"The determination has always been there but the belief is now there 110 per cent," said Scotland's two-try hero Rollie.
"We all know we can do it if we stick in. The first 20 minutes were a bit shaky, but once we got in the groove of how we wanted to play there was no looking back. That belief has transformed us as a team. It is not just a case of a couple of us thinking we might do it – every single player in this team now believes we are going to do it."
This was the only match that resulted in positional changes in the World Rugby Women's Rankings with Scotland climbing one place to a new high of 12th at the expense of South Africa, while Italy and Wales swap places with the Azzurra now 10th.
With the exception of Scotland, the other five teams will now continue their preparations for Women's Rugby World Cup 2017, which takes place in Ireland from 9-26 August. Click HERE for more information on tickets for the showpiece event.
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