- Scarratt & Wilson try scorers as England Women beat France
- Ireland now stand in the way of England securing a seventh successive title
Photo: Getty Images
Just one game now separates England from a seventh successive Six Nations title after the defending champions edged a 15-3 thriller over France at the Stade Charlety in Paris on Sunday.
Going into the second half England led just 3-0 thanks to the boot of centre Emily Scarratt but both sides had matched each other for much of the first 40. A 47th minute try for Scarratt, converted by captain Katy McLean, proved pivotal, followed up by a second score, this time from Kay Wilson, to give England the breathing space they needed.
England will now take on Ireland at Esher RFC on March 17, kick off 2pm, in the hope of securing a record breaking seventh consecutive title and a sixth Grand Slam in seven years.
England Head Coach Gary Street said: “This was a fantastic performance. The players dug deep in an intimidating atmosphere against a seriously physical French team. We defended magnificently and controlled the ball for long periods of time and scored two outstanding tries that would be worthy of being scored in any world class international rugby match.
“Next up is Ireland and we have got to keep our feet on the ground. We are not thinking about the title or the Grand Slam, next week will be all about getting the job done. We have got to defeat Ireland and that is our only goal. The squad are in a good place and we are ready for the final match in this campaign.”
With this match being billed as the potential title decider, the game certainly lived up to expectations. Both teams battled hard and neither side could break each other’s line for the first 30 minutes. France were hugely aggressive in defence and tried to keep the game tight. They had their chance with an early drop goal attempt but the kick was not long enough while McLean also attempted a tenth minute penalty but was also unsuccessful.
Photo: Getty Images
France continued to defend well but England were working hard to wear them down and Bristol wing Kay Wilson came close after a good drive by England in the early stages. Centre Scarratt then cut a good line, the first clean break of the game, and offloaded to Wilson but the winger couldn’t get over the try line to break the deadlock.
France took their chances too and dominated England initially in the line-outs but in the end it was the visitors who got the first points on the board with a 27th penalty thanks to Scarratt and that was where the score stayed in the first half.
The restart saw the defending champions come into their own and England came close to scoring with flanker Margaret Alphonsi executing some of her trademark tackles to knock France off their stride. Centre Rachael Burford was also bang on form and only a forward pass from McLean to Scarratt stopped England scoring an early second half try.
Moments later Scarratt was, however, on the scoreboard again. It was hooker Victoria Fleetwood who had done the hard work at the breakdown, after France had come close to scoring, but Scarratt was waiting in support and she showed some serious speed to charge up-field, and despite French wing Laurelin Fourcade being hot on her heels, she scored. McLean added the conversion to hand England a 10-0 lead.
England’s momentum continued to gather and some great play by Burford, Wilson and McLean, inside England’s own 22, saw young wing Wilson make a clean break, and like Scarratt earlier, she charged 50 metres up-field to score. McLean this time couldn’t make the conversion.
With the score at 15-0 in England’s favour both France and England made a raft of changes. France came close to score their first try when Fourcade executed a nice chip deep in England’s 22, after a barrage on England’s try line which saw Alphonsi lay her body literally on the line, but a lucky ball bounce and some great cover defending by Michaela Staniford, starting her 50th game for England, saw the score go astray.
France had their first attempt at goal with a 59th minute penalty and Aurielle Bailon stroked it over, and although the hosts kept battling until the very end, even when they went down to 14 players, England’s defence was magnificent and they could not break through.
15 Natasha Hunt (Lichfield), 14 Kay Wilson (Bristol), 13 Emily Scarratt (Lichfield), 12 Rachael Burford (Richmond), 11 Michaela Staniford (Wasps), 10 Katy McLean (c) (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), 9 La Toya Mason (Wasps), 1 Laura Keates (Worcester), 2 Victoria Fleetwood (Lichfield), 3 Sophie Hemming (Bristol), 4 Rowena Burnfield (Richmond), 5 Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), 6 Marlie Packer (Bristol), 7 Margaret Alphonsi (Saracens) VC, 8 Sarah Hunter (Lichfield).
Replacements: 16 Amy Turner (Richmond), 17 Rochelle Clark (Worcester), 18 Rebecca Essex (Richmond), 19 Isabelle Noel Smith (Bristol), 20 Georgina Rozario (Lichfield), 21 Ceri Large (Worcester), 22 Kimberley Oliver (Bristol)
Tries: Scarratt, Wilson
Replacements: Essex for Burnfield, Clark for Keates, Rozario for Mason (all 53), Noel Smith for Packer (56), Turner for Fleetwood (62), Oliver for Hunt (66).
15 Jessy Tremouliere (Romagnat), 14 Laurelin Fourcadem, 13 Elodie Poublan (Montpellier), 12 Sandrine Agricole (Rennes), 11 Caroline Ladagnous (Lons), 10 Aurélie Bailon (USAP), 9 Marie Alice Yahe (USAP); 1 Hélène Ezanno (Rennes), 2 Laetitia Salles (USAP), 3 Christelle Chobet (Lons), 4 Marine De Nadai (Montpellier), 5 Cyrielle Bouisset (USAP), 6 Koumiba Djoussouvi (Lons), 7 Coumba Tombe Diallo (Bobigny), 8 Marie Charlotte Hebel (Rennes)
Replacements: 16 Gaëlle Mignot (Montpellier), 17 Elodie Portaries (Montpellier), 18 Safi N'Diaye (Montpellier), 19 Audrey Forlani, 20 Marjorie Mayans (St Orens), 21 Laura Delas (Lons), 22 Jennyfer Troncy (Montpellier).
Referee: Nicky Innwood
Assistant Referees: Mathieu Delpy & Jean-Michel Hugeut