England came from behind in Bayonne to beat France and claim a fourth successive Women’s Six Nations title on a thrilling final day of the Championship.
First-half tries from Sarah Bern (two) and Abbie Ward helped the Red Roses to a 24-12 win in front of a sold-out crowd at Stade Jean Dauger that put the seal on a 16th Grand Slam.
Earlier, Super Saturday kicked off in style as Italy edged Wales 10-8 at Cardiff Arms Park thanks to Michela Sillari’s last-minute penalty.
And the curtain was brought down on a record-breaking Championship with yet more drama in Belfast, where Enya Breen converted her own late try to give Ireland a 15-14 victory against Scotland.
We recap everything that happened over the past five weeks as England maintained their standing as the number one team in both the Women’s Six Nations and World Rugby Women’s Rankings powered by Capgemini.
The story in 2022
Marlie Packer marked her 80th test cap with a hat-trick of tries as defending champions England kicked off the Women’s Six Nations with a 57-5 win against Scotland in Edinburgh.
Packer burrowed over in the ninth minute to open the scoring at DAM Health Stadium before the impressive Rosie Galligan offloaded to Poppy Cleall to touch down four minutes later.
Chloe Rollie crossed the whitewash to get the hosts on the board soon after, but it was one-way traffic for the rest of the first half as Heather Cowell, Abby Dow, Packer again and Leanne Infante added tries for England before the break.
Scotland proved a tougher nut to crack in the second half, however, Holly Aitchison and Connie Powell, with her first touch, added further tries before Packer completed her hat-trick and the scoring with less than 15 minutes remaining.
Later on the opening day, Hannah Jones was the match-winner for Wales as Ioan Cunningham’s side started their Championship with an impressive 27-19 defeat of Ireland in Dublin.
Wales lost 45-0 to Ireland in Cardiff during last year’s Women’s Six Nations and found themselves 14-5 down at half-time at the RDS Arena, after Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe and Linda Djougang scored either side of a Carys Phillips try.
Jasmine Joyce narrowed the deficit with a smart finish seven minutes into the second half, but it looked as though Ireland would send the majority of the 6,113 fans in attendance home happy when Stacey Flood went over for her side’s third try.
The match turned in the final quarter, though, as replacement prop Donna Rose came off the bench to score two tries before Jones made sure of victory with a fine solo effort in the closing stages.
France became the third team to wrap up a bonus-point victory on the opening weekend as tries from Emilie Boulard and Chloe Jacquet in the final five minutes put the seal on a 39-6 defeat of Italy.
In front of a big crowd in Grenoble, it was the Azzurre who thought they had scored the first try of the match when Melissa Bettoni burrowed over.
The hooker was judged to have been held up, though, and minutes later Madoussou Fall stretched to score the opening try. Emeline Gros then touched down under the posts to stretch Les Bleues’ lead to 17-6 at half-time.
Lea Murie marked her return to the French team with a try in the 59th minute before Boulard and Jacquet added gloss to the victory late on.
Round 2 got underway in Toulouse, where Ireland thought they had scored the first try of the match only to see Eve Higgins’ effort ruled out for an earlier infringement.
France made the most of the reprieve when Mélissande Llorens touched down in the left corner in the 13th minute and rubber-stamped their dominance as Laure Sansus crossed the whitewash.
Les Bleues would turn around with a bonus point safely secured after Audrey Forlani and Clara Joyeux notched tries in the final 10 minutes of the first half, both being awarded after consultation between referee Aimee Barrett-Theron and the TMO.
Sansus went over again eight minutes into the second half to give the hosts a 33-0 lead. Ireland and Higgins finally got their try with around 25 minutes remaining at Stade Ernest-Wallon, but there was still time for Emilie Boulard to put the seal on an impressive 40-5 victory for France.
Wales, meanwhile, produced a second comeback in as many weeks to secure a 24-19 defeat of Scotland in front of a record crowd for a women’s test at Cardiff Arms Park.
Scotland hooker Lana Skeldon scored the first try less than four minutes into the contest and when Rhona Lloyd touched down for her second score of the afternoon shortly after half-time, the visitors held a 19-7 advantage.
Wales replacement Sioned Harries made an almost instant impact to help cut the hosts’ deficit to five points in the 47th minute. Kelsey Jones then went over to level the scores 17 minutes later as the hosts sensed victory.
And with time running out, Alisha Butchers – the Women’s Six Nations player of Round 1 – made a stunning break in midfield before finding Ffion Lewis in support, who scored to give Wales a first home win in the Women’s Six Nations since 2019.
England ensured they kept pace with France and Wales at the top of the Championship standings as they brought Round 2 to a close with a 74-0 win against Italy in Parma.
Sarah McKenna crossed for the first try of the afternoon inside four minutes at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi and Lydia Thompson, Lark Davies, Shaunagh Brown and Alex Matthews also got in on the act before half-time to secure a try-scoring bonus point.
Thompson scored again less than two minutes into the second half, while Vicky Fleetwood and Sarah Bern did likewise before Emma Sing notched her first ever test try.
Emily Scarratt scored her 50th England try with around 12 minutes remaining in Parma before McKenna grabbed her second of the match and Thompson completed her hat-trick with the final play. The victory was the Red Roses’ biggest ever against Italy, eclipsing a 76-6 win in Rome in 2008.
England extended their winning run to 21 matches with a 58-5 victory against Wales in Gloucester to put themselves just two wins from matching their previous best streak.
After a lengthy stoppage, while England’s Abby Dow received treatment for a bad leg injury, the Red Roses got into their stride to lead 19-0 at half-time thanks to tries from Lark Davies, Abbie Ward and Jess Breach and two Zoe Harrison conversions.
The Red Roses started the second half as they finished the first and secured their bonus point try just five minutes after the restart when Davies grabbed her second.
Breach completed her double not long after and Sarah Bern notched try number six just before the hour mark.
Alex Matthews extended England’s lead further before Wales scored their only points of the game through Kelsey Jones’ try.
Relentless England then added three more tries of their own, Shaunagh Brown, Emily Scarratt and captain Sarah Hunter taking the home side past the half-century for the sixth consecutive match in all competitions.
World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of the Year 2018 Jessy Trémoulière marked her first test start at fly-half in over nine years with a try as France kept up the pressure on England at the top of the table with their third win of the campaign.
Les Bleues scored all their points in a 28-8 win over Scotland in the first half with Trémoulière being joined on the scoresheet by Lauret Sansus and captain Gaëlle Hermet.
Sansus crossed twice, as she did against Ireland in round two, and is now the leading try-scorer in the Championship with four.
Chloe Rollie also scored on her return to the Scotland team in a much more even second half.
Musgrave Park played host to test rugby for the first time in the final game of round three and Ireland christened the new venue with a 29-8 win over Italy.
Greg McWilliams’ side fell behind to an early Beatrice Rigoni penalty but led 10-3 after Lucy Mulhall and Neve Jones scored tries that went unconverted.
Eve Higgins and replacement Katie O’Dwyer joined them on the scoresheet and Ireland were also awarded a second-half penalty try.
Melissa Bettoni scored a consolation try for Italy with eight minutes to go.
France and England set up a Championship decider in Bayonne after both teams maintained their unbeaten records in the 2022 Championship.
Laure Sansus was the star of the show for Les Bleues in Cardiff, scoring two of her side’s five tries to help them to a 33-5 defeat of Wales.
Scrum-half Sansus opened the scoring in the ninth minute at Cardiff Arms Park and after Caroline Boujard and Chloe Jacquet had both gone over, secured the bonus point with a second before half-time.
Jessy Trémoulière converted her own try at the start of the second half to stretch France’s lead to 33 points, but Wales dug in and earned a deserved consolation when Sioned Harries stretched over to score late on.
England remained top of the Women’s Six Nations standings on points difference heading into the final round, following a 69-0 defeat of a depleted Ireland in Leicester.
Playing in front of another record crowd for a standalone women’s test in England, the Red Roses took less than three minutes to score the opening try as Lark Davies powered over.
Sarah Bern then crossed the whitewash in the 18th minute to give the hosts a 10-0 lead but that’s the way the score remained at half-time as Ireland prevented the floodgates from opening.
The visitors’ resolve was finally broken at the beginning of the second half as Marlie Packer and Davies crossed in the opening five minutes, before Dorothy Wall was shown a yellow card.
Lydia Thompson (twice), Poppy Cleall (twice), Hannah Botterman and Ellie Kildunne (twice) all touched down while Ireland ended the match with 14 players after Sene Naoupu was sent off.
In Parma, meanwhile, a second-half comeback secured Italy their first win of the 2022 Championship, as they beat Scotland 20-13.
Emma Wassell’s try at the end of the first half gave the visitors a 10-3 lead, but the score was level within five minutes of the restart as Melissa Bettoni went over for the hosts.
Michele Sillari’s second penalty of the evening edged the Azzurre in front before Silvia Turani came up with the decisive try. Lisa Thomson’s late penalty ensured Scotland left Parma with a losing bonus-point.
France made the perfect start to their winner-takes-all Grand Slam decider against England as they crossed the whitewash within four minutes through Romane Ménager.
Caroline Drouin converted to give Les Bleues a 7-0 lead, but England soon silenced the vociferous home crowd as Bern and Ward went over within five minutes of each other.
Prolific prop Bern then added her second in the 27th minute, Emily Scarratt kicking her third conversion to give the Red Roses a commanding 21-7 lead going into half-time.
England’s defence held firm in the face of French pressure following Zoe Harrison’s yellow card early in the second half, before Scarratt stretched their advantage with a penalty.
Les Bleues had to play with 14 for 10 minutes themselves as Maëlle Filopon was sent to the sin-bin and although they grabbed a second try through Annaëlle Deshaye it proved too little too late as England secured the win and a Championship clean sweep.
Super Saturday had got underway at Cardiff Arms Park where a low-scoring match was brought to life in the final 10 minutes.
Italy could not overtake Wales in the Women’s Six Nations standings but took the lead at the end of a nine-minute period in which the hosts had been reduced to 13 players after Sioned Harries quickly followed Robyn Wilkins into the sin bin.
Sillari converted Sara Barattin’s try to give the Azzurre a 7-0 lead that they kept until nine minutes to go, when a Wilkins penalty ate into the deficit.
Replacement scrum-half Keira Bevan then went over with less than five minutes left on the clock to seemingly win it for Wales.
However, Wilkins missed the conversion and Sillari took full advantage in the final minute, holding her nerve to send a penalty through the posts and win the match for Italy. Despite defeat, the losing bonus-point at least ensured Wales finished third in the standings.
The Women’s Six Nations 2022 came to a close at Kingspan Stadium, where another last-minute kick decided the contest.
Scotland started Super Saturday winless and bottom of the standings but struck first in Belfast as Evie Gallagher crossed the whitewash inside four minutes.
Ireland went into half-time 8-5 ahead, though, after Neve Jones added an unconverted try to Hannah O’Connor’s long-range penalty.
The match appeared to be heading the visitors’ way, however, as Helen Nelson struck three unanswered penalties midway through the second half to give Scotland a six-point lead.
Scotland remained 14-8 in front until the final play, when Breen breached the visiting defence to score her side’s second try and then stepped up to calmly add the match-winning conversion.
WHO WERE THE TOP TRY-SCORERS AND TOP POINTS-SCORERS?
France scrum-half Laure Sansus ended the Women's Six Nations 2022 as top try-scorer having scored six tries across the tournament.
Sansus scored twice each against Ireland, Scotland and Wales, while also supplying the try-scoring pass on a further six occasions during the Championship.
England trio Sarah Bern, Lark Davies and Lydia Thompson each finished with five tries.
Centurion Emily Scarratt, who captained the Red Roses against France in Bayonne, ended the Championship as top points-scorer with 39, seven ahead of Les Bleues' Jessy Trémoulière.