A fourth straight Six Nations title for Red Roses as they beat France 24-12


England are Grand Slam champions

A fourth consecutive Six Nations title. A record-equalling 23rd successive Test win. Ten straight victories against France. A try tally in the championship double that of their closest rivals. The dominance of this England team is quite incredible.

This was their toughest test of the championship – and their least convincing performance – and yet you felt they had the Grand Slam wrapped up by half-time in Bayonne.

Their accuracy and clinical edge came to the fore once more, particularly in terms of their maul for which there is seemingly no answer, and they beat France 24-12. There is a ruthlessness to this Red Roses team that has yet to be matched.

France had opportunities, too, but their own errors cost them and they were unable to replicate the feats of the 2002 Grand Slam-winning team that formed a guard of honour for them as they ran out for this title decider. Too often there were dropped balls, messy lineouts or poor decisions that allowed England to take back control of the game.

The visitors weathered the ten-minute periods either side of half-time when les Bleues piled on the pressure and they may have lost the second period 5-3, but they did enough to triumph yet again.

This Grand Slam decider was hardly a classic – winner-takes-all matches rarely are given what is at stake – but as the Red Roses have so often done before they got the job done. The question now is whether anyone can stop them at the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand later this year. At this juncture it’s hard to envisage.

England are Grand Slam champions

France were first to strike at Stade Jean Dauger, Romane Menager bursting into the line to take a Laure Sansus pass and score under the posts. It was the first time England had been behind at any point in this championship.

Then the Red Roses maul kicked into gear and they powered over the line three times in 15 minutes. Sarah Bern scored either side of an Abbie Ward try as les Bleues could find no way to stop the visitors’ driving lineout.

Then a couple of penalties allowed France to get back into England’s 22 for the first time since the opening exchanges. They spent the final ten minutes of the half piling pressure on the opposition line, the Red Roses conceding penalties as France tried to get their maul rolling. Unlike England, though, they were unable to get over the line and narrow the deficit, albeit that the visitors were lucky not to have a player sin-binned – as well as the maul offences, Poppy Cleall appeared to swipe at Audrey Forlani.

Hollie Davidson did brandish a yellow card soon after the restart, though. Zoe Harrison was on the receiving end after a deliberate knock–on as France launched a multi-phase attack in the England 22.

Yet again, though, France were unable to capitalise on the ensuing penalty. A scrappy lineout gave them a five-metre scrum but England’s power showed as they won a penalty at the set-piece and cleared. Their own mistakes meant they couldn’t make their dominance tell in terms of points, even with a numerical advantage.

England are Grand Slam champions

The driving maul was a dominant feature of the match (Getty Images )

In contrast, when England had an opportunity in the French 22 with a penalty after Maelle Filopon was sin-binned for another deliberate knock-on, Emily Scarratt slotted it through the posts.

It was Scarratt again who made an important interjection when Emilie Boulard scythed through the England defence, the captain covering back to make the all-important tackle.

Then in the 67th minute France’s lineout finally clicked. They got the maul rolling and Sansus delivered the scoring pass to Annaelle Deshaye to crash over from close range. The missed conversion meant it was 24-12 and France were unable to overcome the deficit.

Now all attentions turn to World Cup preparations – the next time these two teams face each other will be in their pool encounter in October.

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