France brought the curtain down on the new-style Super Series with a wonderful display of joined-up rugby against the hosts. In the process they became the only team to reach 50 points in a single game.
The scoreboard was running in slo-mo in the early stages, though the French pack was already getting on top; Jessy Trémoulière kicked two penalties, but the game was a quarter over before Madoussou Fall crashed over after a series of punishing drives. Another relative newcomer to the colours, Emeline Gros, charged an attempted box-kick down, regathered and swept over the line.
This brought the half-time score to an unspectacular 20-0. The Eagles had showed plenty of invention and endeavour, but the occasional error kept them from opening their account.
As the second half wore on, new faces appeared off the visitors’ bench, and some of them were to make an indelible mark on the game and the memory.
A quite wonderful interchange of passes allowed the French to create another cross-kick from left to right. As Céline Ferer claimed it, she was alone in a desert of emptiness. The defensive lines had been torn apart.
The biggest crowd of the series responded warmly to the Eagles’ first success as Alev Kelter fed Jennine Duncan to go over. Kelter converted. They managed one more well-merited try before the end, but in between the French posted 19 more points in a breathless display of running rugby and deft handling.
Two replacements stood out in particular, Marine Ménager (left-wing) and Laure Sansus (scrum-half). The Americans found Ménager hard to handle as she broke tackles and off-loaded to keep attacks going.
Sansus, as tiny as Fall is tall, made a big impression when she came on to replace Pauline Bourdon. For the second time in the series, she went over directly from a set-scrum from a long way out. This is a skill you expect from a master of the trade like Kendra Cocksedge.
Cyrille Banet completed a cracking try from another move involving half the team in superb Gallic handling.
Annick Hayraud and Samuel Cherouk can view this conclusion to their enterprise with great pride. They selected several players unfamiliar on the international stage who made sure they would be called back.
Since the disappearance of Lénaïg Corson one of France’s minor weaknesses has been the line-out. Madoussou Fall has filled that gap and provided the pack with the sort of presence Corson made so telling.
Emma Coudert came on at No 10 to provide a more assured performance than in previous games. Her place-kicking offered another secure option when Trémoulière needed a breather.
For the Red Roses, it adds to the difficulty of completing another successful Six Nations sequence. They have to play France away, and the French have cunningly opted for a venue as far from English shores as reasonably possible, Pau.
So France’s tournament finished on a high note – quite the reverse of the English experience.
Result: USA 14 France 53
Referee: Aimee Barrett-Theron