England Women made it two bonus-point wins from two in the 2019 Women’s Six Nations as they beat France 41-26 at Castle Park in Doncaster.
In front of 4,674 fans in south Yorkshire, England took the lead against the reigning Grand Slam champions after Katy Daley-Mclean’s cross-field kick was superbly taken in the air by Jess Breach to dot down.
After Sarah McKenna was held up over the line, a break down the wing from Kelly Smith was quickly recycled for Poppy Cleall to hit a short line and power over.
Despite prop Vickii Cornborough being shown a yellow card, England scored again with a player less when Emily Scarratt’s clever grubber bounced up perfectly for the onrushing Smith to gather and sprint clear.
England were not done before half-time, when McKenna’s superb line break set up Breach for her second as she dived over in the corner as the bonus-point was secured before the break.
France responded in the opening stages of the second half when Safi N’Diaye got their first points, but some strong forward work close to the line saw England respond and Cleall crossed for her second.
An excellent break from France scrum half Pauline Bourdon gave the visitors hope, before Red Rose replacement Hannah Botterman finished a series of pick and drives and then Catherine O’Donnell went over in the corner for England’s seventh. But Romane Menager crossed in the final play of the game to secure a losing bonus-point.
The Red Roses all-time top points scorer Katy Daley-Mclean passed 500 international point in Doncaster when she converted Breach’s early score, from which she provided the assist with the kick.
Only Jonny Wilkinson and Owen Farrell are ahead of the fly half in England’s all-time point scorers, with team mate Emily Scarratt behind her on 434 points.
The Loughborough Lightning fly-half put in an excellent kicking performance out of hand throughout, and is now up to 505 points after her six points during the game.
Middleton said: “That was a massive win for us and I was really pleased with how we came out and attacked and kept our discipline. We let France in during the second half but that only shows what a world-class side they are.
“We are not the finished article yet and there is plenty still for us to work on. Tonight we will let ourselves celebrate a great win but there is no place for complacency.”
The Red Roses next travel to Cardiff to take on Wales Women at Cardiff Arms Park on Sunday 24 February, KO 12.30pm.
England 41 – 26 France
Tries: Breach 2, P Cleall 2, Smith, Botterman
Cons: Daley-Mclean 3
England match-day 23 against France
15. Sarah McKenna (Saracens Women, 19 caps)
14. Jess Breach (Harlequins Ladies, 4 caps)
13. Emily Scarratt (Loughborough Lightning, 76 caps)
12. Tatyana Heard (Gloucester-Hartpury, 4 caps, Harrison (66 min))
11. Kelly Smith (Gloucester-Hartpury, 7 caps, Scott (70 min))
10. Katy Daley-Mclean (Loughborough Lightning, 104 caps)
9. Leanne Riley (Harlequins Ladies, 26 caps, Hunt (60 min))
1. Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins Ladies, 43 caps, Botterman (55 min))
2. Lark Davies (Worcester Valkyries, 15 caps, Cokayne (60 min))
3. Sarah Bern (Bristol Bears Women, 22 caps, S Brown (63 min))
4. Catherine O’Donnell (Loughborough Lightning, 9 caps)
5. Abbie Scott (Harlequins Ladies, 33 caps)
6. Poppy Cleall (Saracens Women, 26 caps, Beckett (55 min))
7. Poppy Leitch (Bristol Bears Women, 7 caps)
8. Sarah Hunter (Loughborough Lightning, 110 caps, Burnfield (68 min)) ©
16. Amy Cokayne (Wasps FC Ladies, 42 caps)
17. Hannah Botterman (Saracens Women, 7 caps)
18. Shaunagh Brown (Harlequins Ladies, 7 caps)
19. Rowena Burnfield (Richmond Ladies, 49 caps)
20. Sarah Beckett (Firwood Waterloo, 3 caps)
21. Natasha Hunt (Gloucester-Hartpury, 43 caps)
22. Zoe Harrison (Saracens Women, 10 caps)
23. Emily Scott (Harlequins Ladies, 25 caps)
England Women 2019 Six Nations fixtures
Ireland 7 – 51 England
Friday 1 February, Energia Park Donnybrook, Dublin
England 41 – 26 France
Sunday 10 February, Castle Park, Doncaster
Wales v England
Sunday 24 February, KO 12.30pm GMT – live Sky Sports
Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff
England v Italy
Saturday 9 March, KO 12.05pm GMT – live Sky Sports
Sandy Park, Exeter
England v Scotland – live Sky Sports
Saturday 16 March, KO 7.30pm (approx. – following the conclusion of the men’s game) – live Sky Sports
Courtesy of the RFU