Sarah Hunter rounds off England career with thumping victory
By Megan Armitage at Kingston Park
Sarah Hunter rounded off her decorated rugby career by helping steer England to an emphatic 58-7 victory over Scotland in their TikTok 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.
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 TikTok 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.
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