A RECORD crowd of 10,545 at Exeter’s Sandy Park saw England beat Italy 55-0 in the Women’s Six Nations.
The victory keeps England on course for the Grand Slam.
Having beaten Ireland, France and Wales with a try-scoring bonus-points in the competition, England made it four wins from four in blustery conditions in Devon.
It was a tight game in the opening stages until wing Jess Breach dived over in the corner after 12 minutes, while a driving maul from a lineout set the platform for hooker Lark Davies to dot down.
An initial break by Marlie Packer saw her go close to the line before captain Sarah Hunter powered over from close range with a pick and drive for a 21-0 half-time lead.
The bonus-point was secured a minute into the second half as Sarah Bern burst down the blind-side off a set piece lineout move and broke through three tackles to cross.
Hunter’s break from the back of the scrum set up Packer for an easy score and it was another superbly-controlled driving maul that saw Vickii Cornborough go over.
The ball was spun to the right wing for England’s seventh as Breach showed smart footwork and strength to beat the defender – her seventh try of the tournament.
Another well-worked rolling maul saw lock Abbie Scott at the back of the drive to cross, and with time dead Vicky Fleetwood rounded off England’s phase play by diving under the posts for the ninth and final score.
England knew before kick-off they had already achieved a record number of tickets sold for a Red Roses game outside of a World Cup match.
The record attendance for a women’s match in England is the 13,253 that were in attendance for the 2010 Women’s Rugby World Cup final between England and New Zealand at Twickenham Stoop.
“We couldn’t ask for better support,” said England captain Hunter.
“We’ve been working a lot on how we wanted to turn up and really put on a performance. We didn’t have it all our own way today; Italy are a very good side and they showed it today, they kept coming at us.
“The Six Nations is a journey and we have put ourselves in with a good shot next weekend going for the Grand Glam and we are proud of that.”