France Women 18 England Women 6
England Women had to settle for second best in the opening weekend of Six Nations action with France taking a two-try, 18-6 victory at the Stade des Alpes in Grenoble on Saturday.
In a thrilling encounter, watched by a record French crowd of 9, 650 people, England couldn’t match a buoyant French side in every area and they consequently paid a high price.
Both sides made a breathless start with France really rising to the vociferous crowd and putting England under pressure. England, however, banked the first points of the evening with skipper Katy Mclean converting a penalty after some good work by Lichfield duo Natasha Hunt and Emily Scarratt.
France immediately bounced back and put England under pressure again. A line-out and drive saw them go close but in the end they added three points after Sandrine Agricole struck a superb drop goal, underlining France’s ambitious play this evening.
France had another chance at goal some minutes later but missed, but their momentum continued and a super charged France caught England napping at the scrum. Only a massive defensive effort kept France out and in the end England over turned their hosts with Scarratt making the break up field and then Maggie Alphonsi. Alphonsi couldn’t stay on her feet but France were penalised and Mclean edged England into a 6-3 lead with a 30 minute penalty.
France stuck with it though and Agricole slotted home an important kick at goal just six minutes later to keep the crowd on tenterhooks and make the score 6-6 at half-time.
France kept the upper-hand after the break and although they missed an early shot at goal they went ahead when hooker and captain Gaelle Mignot scored from a line-out and driving maul. Agricole didn’t convert making the score 11-6.
France’s ascendency continued with the home side successfully taking on England up front and whilst fullback Jessy Tremouliere missed a penalty France remained in control.
Matters then worsened for England as another line-out saw France inflict a powerful driving maul, and England couldn’t stop the juggernaut. Mignot went over once again, and with Tremouliere this time taking the conversion France took a more assailable 6-18 lead and in the end the victory.
England Head Coach Gary Street said: “This was a disappointing performance in every aspect. We let ourselves down whilst France took their opportunities. We thought we had done our preparations well but clearly we have not done them well enough. This is a big lesson for us to learn and we have got to get it right against Scotland next Sunday.”
15 Kay Wilson (Bristol), 14 Katherine Merchant (Worcester), 13 Emily Scarratt (Lichfield), 12 Rachael Burford (Thurrock), 11 Michaela Staniford (Wasps), 10 Katy Mclean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), 9 Natasha Hunt (Lichfield), 1 Rochelle Clark (Worcester), 2 Emma Croker (Richmond), 3 Sophie Hemming (Bristol), 4 Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), 5 Emily Braund (Lichfield), 6 Marlie Packer (Wasps), 7 Margaret Alphonsi (Saracens), 8 Sarah Hunter (Lichfield). Replacements: 16 Victoria Fleetwood (Lichfield), 17 Claire Purdy (Wasps), 18 Laura Keates (Worcester), 19 Hannah Gallagher (Saracens), 20 Rebecca Essex (Richmond), 21 La Toya Mason (Wasps), 22 Ceri Large (Worcester), 23 Amber Reed (Bristol).
Penalties: Mclean (2),
Substitutions: Mason for Merchant (43), Fleetwood for Croker, Essex for Braund (both 54), Gallagher for Packer, Reed for Hunt (60),
15 Jessy Tremouliere, 14 Marion Lievre, 13 Shannon Izar, 12 Marjorie Mayans, 11 Camille Grassineau, 10 Sandrine Agricole, 9 Jennifer Troncy, 1 Helene Ezanno, 2 Gaelle Mignot C, 3 Elodie Portaries, 4 Marine de Nadai, 5 Assa Koita, 6 Koumiba Djossouvi, 7 Coumba Diallo, 8 Safi N’Diaye. Replacements: 16 Laetitia Salles, 17 Julie Duval, 18 Lise Arricastre, 19 Sandra Rabier, 20 Laettitia Grand, 21 Elodie Poublan, 22 Christelle Leduff, 23 Yanna Rivoalen.
Tries: Mignot (2)
Drop goals: Agricole
Referee: Helen O’Reilly (Ireland)