England A 27 France A 17
England Women A were crowned champions of Europe on Saturday after a thrilling 27-17 cup finale against France A in the European Championships in Madrid.
The development side ran in four tries including two for skipper Rochelle Clark. Fly-half Katy McLean also kicked two conversions and successfully converted a first ever international drop goal.
The result means England A have now done the double over their French counter parts after also inflicting a 21-7 defeat on Les Bleus in March.
England were however left playing catch-up straight away after a set-piece move from the French backs saw their fullback run in from 30 metres out.
The score was the wake-up call England needed though with the Red Roses soon matching their efforts with skipper Clark leading the way.
France soon crumbled under the pressure and gave away a penalty. With Thirsk player McLean kicking to the corner Clark powered her way over the line from a line-out catch and drive. McLean’s conversion on 20 minutes put England 7-5 up.
France bounced back though to take the lead at half-time after a clearance kick by McLean failed to find touch. The French fullback ran it back in and with England’s defence unable to bring down the player, France went 12-7 ahead with the converted try.
With England gaining possession, moving France around all over the pitch and applying the pressure at the breakdown they soon tired and that showed just five minutes after the restart when England were able to take the upper hand.
A penalty gave England a line-out in France’s 22 and although England failed to execute the move, Lichfield lock Emma Dresser gathered up the ball. She was tackled just five metres from the line but off-loaded to Georgina Rozario who then passed to McLean. McLean’s accurate offload set up Thirsk centre Georgina Roberts for a try. McLean missed the conversion but England now stood level on 12 points.
Ten minutes later and England stretched their lead further with their third try and Clark claiming her brace of tries. This time a scrum just five metres out saw the ball recycled out through the centres. With France stopping play by killing the ball England were awarded a penalty. Clark took a quick tap penalty and with France caught napping the prop touched down. McLean converted to hand England a seven point cushion.
France never gave up though and on 55 minutes they executed another set-piece move after a quick tap penalty to score on the blind-side. Their missed conversion meant England still led 19-17 and with McLean adding her first ever drop goal Amanda Bennett’s side moved into a 22-17 lead.
Saracens fullback Claire Allan then had the final word for England with a try in the last minute of play, running in from 30 metres out for an impressive score to crown England A the European Champions.
Bennett said: “This was a fantastic game and we are over the moon to have been crowned champions. The feeling is ever sweeter as this was a real battle. Both teams were really well prepared for this final and were innovative. I think the difference between the two sides was the effectiveness and structure of our game. Our pack were able to dominate and that’s why we were able to run in the tries. It is indeed the most wonderful feeling for the A side and England to be the European Champions and the RBS 6 Nations champions.”
1 Rosemarie Crowley (Lichfield), 2 Emma Layland (Richmond), 3 Rochelle Clark (C) (Henley), 4 Sarah Beale (Leos), 5 Emma Dresser (Lichfield), 6 Sonia Green (Saracens), 7 Jane Leonard (Wasps/Army), 8 Sarah Hunter (Lichfield), 9 Georgina Rozario (Plymouth Albion), 10 Katy McLean (VC) (Thirsk), 11 Amber Penrith (Cardiff Quins), 12 Georgina Roberts (Thirsk), 13 Michaela Staniford (Wasps), 14 Katherine Merchant (Worcester), 15 Claire Allan (Saracens)Replacements: 16 Samantha Dale (Worcester), 17 Sophie Hemming (Clifton), 18 Becky Essex (Richmond), 19 Leah Carey (Lichfield), 20 Harriet Slynn (Richmond), 21 Shelley Rae (Wasps), 22 Kim Oliver (Clifton), 23 Katie Smith (Richmond), 24 Natalie Binstead (Wasps), 25 Fiona Pocock (Richmond), 26 Vicky Jackson (Lichfield).
Tries: Clark (2), Roberts, Allan
Conversions: McLean (2)
Drop goals: McLean
England A European Championship fixtures:
Saturday April 28th England A v Russia kick-off 3pm BST, WON 62-0
Monday April 30th England A v Italy, kick-off 2pm BST, WON 41-11
Wednesday May 2nd, England A v Spain, kick-off 11am BST, DRAW 22-22
Saturday May 5th, Final England A v France A, kick-off 4pm BST, WON 22-17
photo Cheltenham jockey club
photo Cheltenham Racecourse