France 10-33 England: Red Roses dominate France in Grenoble

By Mantej MannBBC Sport
Women's Test: France v England
France (10) 10
Tries: Hermet Pens: Drouin Cons: Drouin
England (10) 33
Tries: Cokayne, Matthews, Breach Pens: Scarratt 4 Cons: Scarratt 3

Women's Six Nations champions England beat France 33-10 to become the number one ranked side in the world.

Hooker Amy Cokayne's early try gave England the lead but France fought back through captain Gaelle Hermet as the teams went in 10-10 at half-time.

Alex Matthews and Jess Breach scored in quick succession to put England on top after the break in Grenoble.

Captain Emily Scarratt kicked the rest of the points as England beat France for the 10th time in 11 meetings.

The game was televised live on the BBC as the Red Roses moved above world champions New Zealand, who will host the World Cup next July.

England meet France again at Twickenham next Saturday.

Second-half blitz proves decisive for England

France produced an entertaining display to remain level with England in the first 40 minutes, but they were blown away after five second-half minutes.

Former sevens player Helena Rowland had a quiet first half on her full debut for England, but she sparked into life after the restart.

She collected the French kick inside her own half before setting off on a lung-busting run to beat three defenders and offload to Cokayne.

The ball was recycled and Matthews touched down under the posts but the try was all about Rowland, who could be a mainstay in the Red Roses' future, with Katy Daley-McLean, 34, coming towards the twilight of her career.

Simon Middleton's side scored their third try moments later as France kicked deep once more, and this time Breach stormed through the straggling French defence.

Like Rowland, the winger had an uneventful first 40 before turning on the style with ball in hand, as England demonstrated the clinical edge that their hosts lacked.

Breach's try effectively killed the game as a contest as the ever-reliable Scarratt scored a further three penalties to hand her side a comfortable victory.

France wilt behind closed doors

Middleton said he was expecting another competitive "ding-dong" between the old rivals, and for 40 minutes it proved to be just that.

England took the lead from a rolling maul but France hit back when captain Hermet reached out to ground the ball from close range.

France played with plenty of flair as they threw the ball around, but the final pass often went astray.

That was typified early on when scrum-half Laure Sansus skipped through several tackles before the ball was knocked on by Carla Neisen, five metres from the whitewash.

The hosts are normally backed by several thousand supporters when they face England, but the sunbathed Stade des Alpes was empty for the visit of the Grand Slam winners, because of Covid-19 restrictions.

Perhaps a partisan crowd cheering them on would have inspired them to a more polished performance, but they will have to sharpen up their attack when they travel to Twickenham next weekend.

'Two moments of genius' - what they said

England head coach Middleton said: "We're absolutely delighted with today's win. Our squad strength-in-depth was shown today.

"We brought youngsters in, players back in. We have a number of players with injuries, world class and international players.

"I said to the team at half-time, we needed to keep the intensity up and the two moments of genius we had at the start of the second half came from that.

"I'd like to give a special mention to all the staff and both unions who have worked tirelessly. We know a huge amount of work has gone into getting the game on safely and we're grateful.

"It's huge for us to have the games on the BBC and hopefully the audience enjoyed it today."

England fly-half Rowland added: "Being out of XVs for a couple of years, you never know what to expect coming back but I've loved it. It helps with the players you've got around you, they really give you confidence.

"I think returning to number one in the world rankings is huge, particularly in a World Cup year. For the team to put out those performances as a side which allow us to be top of the world rankings is huge."

Teams

France: Izar; Bertrand, Filopon, Neisen, Menager; Drouin, Sansus; Deshaye, Sochat, Bernadou, Ferer, Diallo, Mayans, Hermet, Gros.

Replacements: Touye, Ait Lahbib, Pelle, Feleu, Lecat, Bourdon, Vernier, Pignot.

England: Kildunne; Breach, Scarratt (capt), Harrison, Dow; Rowland, Riley; Cornborough, Cokayne, Brown, Ward (vice-capt), Cleall, Matthews, Packer, Beckett.

Replacements: Davies, Harper, Keates, Talling, Millar-Mills, MacDonald, Smith, Jones.

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