Kelly Smith came off the bench to score a late try and rescue a draw for England Women U20 against France U20 at Esher RFC.
The home side lost a 17 point advantage at half time to draw 25-25 on Saturday.
After trading early penalties, England had the first try of the game just shy of 20 minutes with Catherine O’Donnell going over for 8-3.
England dominated the first half, scoring twice more, from Sarah Bern and a penalty try completed by an 80m run from Rachael Woosey, which left them at a 17-3 advantage by the half time whistle.
However France came back fighting, leaving England struggling to get out of their own defence. England were unable to counter the French steam train which brought the scores level at 20-20 when a yellow card for O’Donnell left England a man down.
France capitalised on the deficit, with a second try for flanker Pauline Soulard, putting France five points ahead with 14 minutes remaining.
The England side showed great resilience in front of strong home support to keep fighting and a break through from Smith brought them equal in the dying seconds.
Captain Millie Wood said: “We are disappointed not to come away with the win after going ahead. The atmosphere in the changing room at half time was really positive and we wanted to kick on through in the second half.
“France came back on the front foot and we struggled. All credit to the girls for playing the full 80 minutes and bringing back the draw.”
Head Coach Jo Yapp added: “This squad is all about development and the girls will have learned a lot out there against France today. They will be disappointed with the final score, as they thought they could win.
“Embedded in these girls is resilience and they show they’ve got that by coming back to score that final try in the last minute.
“They have to believe that they are good enough to beat France and they need to analyse today, not be disappointed but ask themselves what they can improve on. “
Saturday was the first of two games against France this month, with the second away at Chartres RFC on Saturday 19 March.
Tries: O’Donnell, Bern, Smith
Penalty try: Woosey
England Women U20 v France Women U20 (Club, University/AASE)
15. Sydney Gregson (Bristol, University of Bath)
14. (Darlington Mowden Park, Bishop Burton College)
13. Holly Aitchison (Lichfield, Hartpury College)
12. Emily Wood (Captain) (Lichfield, University of Gloucestershire)
11. Abigail Dow (Wasps)
10. Zoe Harrison (Welwn, Hartpury College)
9. Lucy Nye (Lichfield, Loughborough University)
1. Ellena Perry (Saracens, Hartpury College)
2. May Campbell (Wasps, Brunel University)
3. Katie Trevarthen (Lichfield, Coventry University)
4. Molly Morrissey (Lichfield, Hartpury University)
5. Catherine O’Donnell (waterloo, University of Liverpool)
6. Sarah Bern (Bristol, University of Gloucestershire)
7. Poppy Leitch (Bristol, University of Exeter)
8. Zoe Aldcroft (Darlington Mowden Park, Northumbria University)
16. Rebecca Noon (Lichfield, Nottingham Trent University)
17. Jessie Hood (Bristol, University of Bath)
18. Hannah West (Wasps, Brunel University)
19. Olivia Jones (Bristol, Cardiff Metropolitan)
20. Sue Neumann (Bristol, University of Bristol)
21. Chantelle Miell (Bristol, University of Bath)
22. Charlotte Holland (Bristol, University of Bath)
23. Kelly Smith (Worcester, Hartpury University)
Report courtesy of England Rugby