A 21-15 defeat for England Women against France tonight (Saturday) at Twickenham Stadium handed the reigning world champions a fourth place finish in this season’s Six Nations.
Fielding a young and developing side for this season’s campaign, which included only a handful of world cup winners, England went into the game with two wins against Scotland and Italy in the bag, and defeats to Wales and Ireland.
Favourites and defending champions France started the match well and had England defending in their half for much of the first quarter. Fullback Jessy Tremouliere slotted over an early penalty and then the visitors increased that lead further with a 21st minute try courtesy of their captain, Gaelle Minot. The hooker benefited from a well worked driving maul which saw the forward dot down over the line. Tremouliere converted handing France a 10-0 lead.
Tremouliere extended France’s lead further with her second penalty with another fine kick at goal, but with France down to 14 players with Shannon Izar off the field, England then looked the side in control. They added a penalty courtesy of centre Amber Reed but would have been frustrated to not add more before the break.
After the restart, France continued to dominate again, looking the stronger of the two sides. Tremouliere edged France further ahead with a third penalty.
England managed to string some good phases of play together to make some breaks and in the end flanker Hannah Gallagher got on the end of a good pass from prop Laura Keates to score a much needed try. Reed couldn’t make the conversion and England trailed 16-8 with 20 minutes left.
As England looked to get closer to France, it exposed gaps and Tremouliere was on hand to dot down in the corner for 21-8 lead. But England responded well and the forwards turned the screw in the French 22. The pressure told and Harriet Millar-Mills touched down to make it 21-15 after Reed’s successful conversion with ten minutes to play.
England continued to push but the French defence held firm and saw the game out.
Acting England Women’s Head Coach Nicola Ponsford said: “It is disappointing to finish fourth but we started the campaign with the aim of blooding several new players and developing them as we build towards the next world cup in 2017. We have done that and all the players have progressed game by game. They have got more and more competitive and we finished the championship pushing France to the end.”
“It has been a very open tournament, and today, although ultimately it was not the result we wanted, we put in a much better second half performance.”
15 Fiona Pocock (Richmond), 14 Ruth Laybourn (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), 13 Amber Reed (Bristol), 12 Ceri Large (Worcester), 11 Lydia Thompson (Worcester), 10 Katy Mclean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks) (C), 9 Bianca Blackburn (Worcester), 1 Rochelle Clark (Worcester), 2 Victoria Fleetwood (Saracens), 3 Justine Lucas (Lichfield), 4 Tamara Taylor (VC) (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), 5 Abbie Scott (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), 6 Hannah Gallagher (Saracens), 7 Hannah Field (Richmond), 8 Alexandra Matthews (Richmond). Replacements: 16 Amy Cokayne (Lichfield), 17 Victoria Cornborough (Richmond), 18 Laura Keates (Worcester), 19 Rowena Burnfield (Richmond), 20 Harriet Millar-Mills (Waterloo), 21 Fiona Davidson (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), 22 Abigail Brown (Bristol), 23 Katie Mason (Bristol)
Tries: Gallagher, Millar-Mills
Substitutions: Millar-Mills for Field (16), Brown for Large (39), Keates for Lucas (51), Davidson for Blackburn (53), Cokayne for Fleetwood (68), Cornborough for Clark (71), Burfield for Taylor (71), Mason for Brown (blood, 79)
15. Jessy Tremouliere (Romagnat); 14. Céline Heguy (Bayonne); 13. Shannon Izar (Lille –Villeneuve d’Ascq); 12. Elodie Poublan (Montpellier); 11. Julie Billes (USAP); 10. Audrey Abadie (Blagnac -Saint Orens); 9. Yanna Rivoalen (Lille –Villeneuve d’Ascq); 1. Lise Arricastre (Lons), 2. Gaëlle Mignot (Montpellier), 3. Patricia Carricaburu (Lons); 4. Manon Andre (Blagnac -Saint Orens); 5. Audrey Forlani (Blagnac -Saint Orens); 6. Coumba Tombe Diallo (Stade Bordelais), 7. Laetitia Grand (Lons), 8. Safi N’diaye (Montpellier). Replacements: 16. Wendy Divoux (USAP); 17. Julie Duval (Ovalie Caennaise); 18. Sophie Pin (La Valette); 19. Pauline Rayssac (Montpellier); 20. Jennyfer Troncy (Montpellier); 21. Marjorie Mayans (Blagnac -Saint Orens); 22. Caroline Boujard (USAP); 23. Amaya Gonzalez (Bayonne).
Tries: Mignot, Tremouliere
Penalties: Tremouliere (3)
Referee: Alhambra Nievas (FER)