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Rugby - 11. March 2012.

France Women 3 England Women 15

France Women 3 England Women 15

Just one game now separates England from a seventh successive Six Nations
title as the defending champions edged a 3-15 thriller over France at the
Stade Charlety in Paris on Sunday.

Going into the second half England led just 3-0 thanks to the boot of
centre Emily Scarratt but both sides had matched each other for much of the
first 40. A 47th minute try for Scarratt, converted by captain Katy McLean,
proved pivotal, followed up by a second score, this time from Kay Wilson, to
give England the breathing space they needed.

England will now take on Ireland at Esher RFC on March 17th, kick off 2pm,
in the hope of securing a record breaking seventh consecutive title and a
sixth Grand Slam in seven years.

England Head Coach Gary Street said: “This was a fantastic
performance. The players dug deep in an intimidating atmosphere against a
seriously physical French team. We defended magnificently and controlled the
ball for long periods of time and scored two outstanding tries that would be
worthy of being scored in any world class international rugby match.

“Next up is Ireland and we have got to keep our feet on the ground.
We are not thinking about the title or the Grand Slam, next week will be all
about getting the job done. We have got to defeat Ireland and that is our
only goal. The squad are in a good place and we are ready for the final
match in this campaign.”

With this match being billed as the potential title decider, the game
certainly lived up to expectations. Both teams battled hard and neither side
could break each other’s line for the first 30 minutes. France were
hugely aggressive in defence and tried to keep the game tight. They had
their chance with an early drop goal attempt but the kick was not long
enough while McLean also attempted a tenth minute penalty but was also
unsuccessful.

France continued to defend well but England were working hard to wear them
down and Bristol wing Kay Wilson came close after a good drive by England in
the early stages. Centre Scarratt then cut a good line, the first clean
break of the game, and offloaded to Wilson but the winger couldn’t get
over the try line to break the deadlock.

France took their chances too and dominated England initially in the
line-outs but in the end it was the visitors who got the first points on the
board with a 27th penalty thanks to Scarratt and that was where the score
stayed in the first half.

The restart saw the defending champions come into their own and England
came close to scoring with flanker Margaret Alphonsi executing some of her
trademark tackles to knock France off their stride. Centre Rachael Burford
was also bang on form and only a forward pass from McLean to Scarratt
stopped England scoring an early second half try.

Moments later Scarratt was, however, on the scoreboard again. It was hooker
Victoria Fleetwood who had done the hard work at the breakdown, after France
had come close to scoring, but Scarratt was waiting in support and she
showed some serious speed to charge up-field, and despite French wing
Laurelin Fourcade being hot on her heels, she scored. McLean added the
conversion to hand England a 10-0 lead.

England’s momentum continued to gather and some great play by
Burford, Wilson and McLean, inside England’s own 22, saw young wing
Wilson make a clean break, and like Scarratt earlier, she charged 50 metres
up-field to score. McLean this time couldn’t make the conversion.

With the score at 15-0 in England’s favour both France and England
made a raft of changes. France came close to score their first try when
Fourcade executed a nice chip deep in England’s 22, after a barrage on
England’s try line which saw Alphonsi lay her body literally on the
line, but a lucky ball bounce and some great cover defending by Michaela
Staniford, starting her 50th game for England, saw the score go astray.

France had their first attempt at goal with a 59th minute penalty and
Aurielle Bailon stroked it over, and although the hosts kept battling until
the very end, even when they went down to 14 players, England’s
defence was magnificent and they could not break through.
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