The Red Roses beat France 17-15 in their Quilter International against France Women at Sandy Park in Exeter.
In bright autumnal sunshine in front of 9,699 in Devon, England recorded their fourth win in a row against Les Bleues off the back of a 20-10 win in Clermont-Ferrand last weekend, the Red Roses’ first win in France since 2012.
After a scoreless opening 20 minutes, where England came closest to scoring but an excellent defensive tackle prevented Emily Scarratt from crossing, it was Jessy Tremouliere’s penalty that gave the visitors the lead.
France then got the opening try of the game when scrum half Laure Sansus kicked over the top inside the 22, and beat covering defence to the bounce to hack forward her own kick and then gather to cross.
After missing her first attempt from the tee, Scarratt got England on the board through a simple penalty in front of the posts, and after England worked through a number of phases to earn a second penalty, she knocked that over for a 6-8 half-time deficit as well as reaching 500 points in Test rugby.
The first points after the break went England’s way with another Scarratt penalty and some territory inside the France 22 was rewarded with more points, again from Scarratt’s boot for a 12-8 lead.
The French crossed for a second time on 65 minutes to retake the lead when, from a five-metre scrum, Sansus darted down the blindside to work a two-on-one and fed Caroline Boujard for an easy score, with Tremouliere adding the conversion.
England played the closing stages of the game a player down after Zoe Aldcroft was sent to the sin bin for her clearout but Romane Menager was also shown a yellow card minutes later for being offisde.
A poor clearance kick allowed the Red Roses to secure a dramatic last minute try when the ball was worked to the right wing and Scarratt fed Lydia Thompson and the winger sprinted in and dived over for the victory.
It was a special day for World Rugby Women’s Player of the Year Emily Scarratt who passed the 500-point mark with her 12 point haul in Exeter.
The outside centre showed all facets of her game running strong attacking lines, was solid in defence as well as her kicking from the tee to keep England in the match, and then assisted Thompson for the winning try.
She reached 500 points on her 84th cap which included 44 tries, 80 conversions and 40 penalties, and then passed that mark with two further penalties.
Openside flanker Marlie Packer, meanwhile, ran out for England for the 70th time at Sandy Park while on other side of her Red Roses career, Rownita Marston made her debut, after the Bristol Bears Women forward was called up following an injury to Lark Davies.
Head coach Simon Middleton said: “I got the feeling in the changing room at half-time that we were too anxious, not just with how we played but with what the situation of the game was.
“I’m absolutely thrilled with the win and one of the things we’ve learnt to do really well is win tight games, we did it twice in the Super Series in the summer and we’ve done it again today.
“When you’ve got a player like Lydia Thompson on the field who specialises in tries you’re always in with a shout. It was a good connection to score the try at the end, it looks simple but we were under massive pressure and we executed and we finished.
“There’s an appetite for the game in Exeter. I thought today’s crowd was incredible and really patient with us as the game was a bit scrappy. We didn’t deliver a performance I wanted to showcase but I was so pleased we gave them an opportunity to get them on their feet at the end.”
England – Tries: Thompson Pens: Scarratt 4
France – Tries: Sansus, Boujard Cons: Tremouliere Pens: Tremouliere
15 Sarah McKenna, 14 Lydia Thompson, 13 Emily Scarratt (VC), 12 Zoe Harrison, 11 Abby Dow, 10 Katy Daley-Mclean, 9 Leanne Riley; 1 Hannah Botterman, 2 Heather Kerr, 3 Sarah Bern, 4 Zoe Aldcroft, 5 Abbie Scott, 6 Sarah Beckett, 7 Marlie Packer, 8 Sarah Hunter (C).
16 Rownita Marston, 17 Ellena Perry, 18 Shaunagh Brown, 19 Poppy Cleall, 20 Vicky Fleetwood, 21 Natasha Hunt, 22 Emily Scott, 23 Jess Breach.
15 Jessy Tremouliere, 14 Caroline Boujard, 13 Camille Boudaud, 12 Gabrielle Vernier, 11 Ian Jason, 10 Morgane Peyronnet, 9 Laure Sansus; 1 Annaelle Deshayes, 2 Agathe Sochat, 3 Clara Joyeux, 4 Lenaig Corson, 5 Safi N’Diaye, 6 Celine Ferer, 7 Gaelle Hermet (C), 8 Romane Menager.
16 Caroline Thomas, 17 Celia Domain, 18 Dhia Traore, 19 Amelie Roux, 20 Julie Annery, 21 Pauline Bourdon, 22 Marie-Aurelie Castel, 23 Marine Menager.
· Saturday 9 November – France Women 10-20 England Women
· Saturday 16 November – Quilter International: England Women 17-15 France Women
· Saturday 23 November – Quilter International: England Women v Italy Women
Goldington Road, Bedford (KO 1500 GMT live on EnglandRugby.com and England Rugby social channels)
Courtesy of the RFU