When did New Zealand last lose two games in one day? No, not Sevens!
As the men went down to Ireland in a thriller in Dublin, the Black Ferns suffered a third consecutive defeat on tour in Pau and les Bleues could celebrate a third astonishing victory in a row over the world champions, equalling England’s achievement of 2012.
We don’t want to appear know-all. but this trouncing of the Black Ferns was all too predictable.
In front of a huge enthusiastic crowd the French, playing in white, controlled the traffic, scoring six tries and conceding one only in the 74th minute.
Kendra Cocksedge made the first strike with an early penalty, but only seven minutes in Cyrielle Banet started what she may later recall as one of the great games she has ever played. The defence was caught short, allowing her to scamper over the line from close in. (7-3).
The Ferns were content to add another Cocksedge penalty, but at once France created magic. A series of unlikely links involving Filopon, Ménager, Drouin then Bourdon allowed Gabrielle Vernier to produce a sudden cross-kick to the right. There was Banet to take it on the full for her second. A try worth ten points.
Emilie Boulard was nearly in for a third helping, but there had been an earlier knock-on.
The French team were controlling the game, more accurate at scrum and line-out, more cohesive in developing attacks.
Before the break Chloë Jacquet added to the visitors’ misery with a fine fourth try, reminiscent of Ellie Kildunne’s at Northampton as the ball swung left leaving the defence short-staffed.
This was the fourth-ranked side in the world showing the champions how to play.
For the third time this tour people waited for the big come-back. It didn’t transpire. Instead, yet more tries (by Boulard, Agathe Sochat and Laure Sansus) increased the margin of victory. Just that one late response to soften the blow.
The Ferns had no answer to the driving maul. Boulard’s try came after one such; Bourdon sniped left into space for the full-back to stroll in. Sansus spotted open land beyond another rumble.
Even Eloise Blackwell’s try needed a TMO microscope. French hands got under the ball, but it just rolled over a wrist to make contact with the ground.
15 Emilie Boulard (Chilly-Mazarin), 14 Cyrielle Banet (Montpellier), 13 Maëlle Filopon (Stade Toulousain), 12 Gabrielle Vernier (Lille Métropole RC Villeneuvois), 11 Caroline Boujard (Montpellier), 10 Caroline Drouin (Stade Rennais), 9 Pauline Bourdon (Stade Toulousain), 1 Coco Lindelauf (Blagnac), 2 Agathe Sochat (Montpellier), 3 Annaëlle Deshayes (Lyon OU), 4 Céline Ferer (Stade Toulousain), 5 Audrey Forlani (Blagnac), 6 Gaëlle Hermet (captain, Stade Toulousain), 7 Romane Ménager (Montpellier), 8 Emeline Gros (Montpellier)
16 Lau1qre Touyé (Montpellier), 17 Yllana Brosseau (AC Bobigny 93) 18 Clara Joyeux (Blagnac), 19 Safi N’Diaye (Montpellier), 20 Axelle Berthoumieux (Blagnac), 21 Laure Sansus (Stade Toulousain), 22 Chloé Jacquet (Lyon OU), 23 Jessy Trémoulière (Romagnat)
1. Pip Love, 2. Grace Houpapa-Barrett, 3. Aleisha Pearl Nelson, 4. Joanah Ngan-Woo, 5. Maia Roos, 6. Dhys Faleafaga, 7. Les Elder (captain), 8. Liana Mikaele-Tu’u,
9. Kendra Cocksedge, 10. Ruahei Demant, 11. Ayesha Leti-I’iga, 12. Kelly Brazier, 13. Stacey Fluhler, 14. Portia Woodman, 15. Cheyelle Robins-Reti
16. Georgia Ponsonby, 17. Aldora Itunu, 18. Amy Rule, 19. Eloise Blackwell, 20. Kennedy Simon, 21. Ariana Bayler, 22. Patricia Maliepo, 23. Carla Hohepa
Referee: Aimee Barrett-Theron (SARU)
ARs: Sam Grove-White (SRU) and Katherine Ritchie (RFU)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (WRU)
A one-eyed European Viewpoint
It’s going to be the first ever all-European final next year.
France’s record is silly. A host of RWC semi-finals; not one final. A run of eight defeats to the English that might knock the stuffing out of weaker mortals.
Yet they are building an outstanding squad with quality players competing for one position, just like the Red Roses. As things stand now, 364 days before the big final, the likeliest match-up is England v France.