England Women remain on track to retain their RBS 6 Nations title after a hard fought 16-3 victory over of France at Worcester’s Sixways Stadium. The game might not have been the performance England Head Coach Gary Street was looking for but certainly the result ticked the right box as England look to secure a sixth successive title and another Grand Slam.
Tries for England hooker Amy Garnett and skipper Katy McLean sealed the victory but England had to wait for them with both touchdowns in the last quarter of the game. Nevertheless, the reigning champions had looked in control for much of the game, but their downfull was not being able to turn possession into points.
Street, whose side is now the only unbeaten team in the Six Nations, said: “We were very sporadic today and we managed to squander quite a few opportunities. It was frustrating because we got ourselves into some good positions but we missed the try scoring opportunities. We lacked precision at times and that was disappointing.
“There’s lots for us to work on but the important thing is that we are still on track. We have now got a good focus for our game against Scotland and we know where the improvements need to be made.”
England looked dangerous from the off, but the tone they soon set for themselves followed them for much of the match. After just two minutes skipper McLean made a great break, catching France on the hop, but the tourists swarmed around England and dashed their try scoring hopes.
Worcester’s Danielle Waterman and Lichfield’s Emily Scarratt also came close in the opening quarter but France held firm while England paid for their errors in the final stages of their attacking play.
France had the first opportunity to put points on the board with a penalty after 26 minutes but Sandrine Agricole couldn’t convert. A second attempt, with Nadge Casenave taking over the kicking duties, was more successful and France took a 3-0 lead after 26 minutes.
McLean too had her chance at goal, missing a 35th minute effort but she made amends to equalise just minutes into injury time.
The Darlington Mowden Park Sharks fly half was back in action soon after the restart with a 49th minute shot at goal, and with the kick being successful England took a 6-3 lead.
England rang the changes on the pitch and replacements Garnett, Rachael Burford and Catherine Spence made an immediate impression. Burford came close to scoring, but again France’s defence held firm. Again, the chances were there for England but the rugby world cup finalists couldn’t finish off the opportunities.
England’s continuous pressure did pay off eventually though with Saracens’ hooker Garnett picking up from the back of a ruck and barging her way over the try line. McLean missed the penalty but England led 11-3 after 72 minutes.
McLean then rounded off proceedings for England with an injury time try. A ruck in the midfield saw England spin the ball out to the right wing and McLean found space to score the final touchdown. Again, she couldn’t make the conversion but 16-3 was enough to seal the win for England.
15 Danielle Waterman (Worcester), 14 Katherine Merchant (Worcester), 13 Emily Scarratt (Lichfield), 12 Kimberley Oliver (Bristol), 11 Francesca Matthews (Richmond), 10 Katy Mclean (C) (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), 9 La Toya Mason (Wasps), 1 Rochelle Clark (Worcester), 2 Emma Croker (Richmond), 3 Sophie Hemming (Bristol), 4 Rebecca Essex (Richmond), 5 Joanna McGilchrist (Wasps),6 Heather Fisher(Worcester), 7 Margaret Alphonsi (vc) (Saracens), 8 Sarah Hunter (Lichfield). Replacements: 16 Amy Garnett (Saracens), 17 Rosemarie Crowley (Lichfield), 18 Rowena Burnfield (Richmond), 19 Catherine Spencer (Bristol), 20 Georgina Rozario (Lichfield), 21 Rachael Burford (Richmond), 22 Georgina Roberts (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks).
Tries: Garnett, McLean
Penalties: McLean (2)
Replacements: Roberts for Matthews (8, blood, reversed 20), Burford for Oliver (HT), Garnett for Croker (50), Spencer for Fisher (57), Burnfield for McGilchrist (64), Crowley for Hemming (62).
15 LADAGNOUS CAROLINE, 14 AGUERRE DIONI, 13 POUBLAN ELODIE, 12 AGRICOLE SANDRINE, 11 RAMKILAOUN SABRINA, 10 CASENAVE NADEGE, 9 YAHE MARIE ALICE (C), 1 EZANNO HELENE, 2 MIGNOT GAËLLE, 3 CHOBET CHRISTELLE, 4 DE NADAÏ MARINE, 5 BOUISSET CYRIELLE, 6 DJOSSOUVI KOUMIBA, 8 BA AÏDA, 7 HEBEL MARIE CHARLOTTE. Replacements: 16 NOGUERA AUDREY, 17 BARTHELEMY CELINE, 18 RABIER SANDRA, 19 ANDRE MANON, 20 TRONCY JENNYFER, 21 SOBOLAK AURORE, 22 HEGUY CELINE.
Half time score: England 3 France 3
Referee: Wayne Davies
Assistant Referees: Brian Ravenhill & Debbie Innes
England’s RBS 6 Nations Fixtures
Wales v England Feb 6 Cross Keys RFC WON 0-19
England v Italy Feb 12 Esher RFC WON 68-5
*England v France Feb 27 Worcester RFC WON 16-3
** England v Scotland March 13 Twickenham Stadium KO 515pm
Ireland v England March 18 Ashbourne RFC KO 730pm