17 November 2019

Rugby: England’s Women miss out by the narrowest of margins in France

November 7, 2011

England Women’s two match series against France ended in disappointment today (Saturday) with a 68th minute converted try sealing a 16-15 victory for the hosts at the Pierre de Coubertin Stadium in Chateaurenard.

England, who fielded five uncapped players for the test match, led for most of the game but the strong French side were never far behind and in the end made the most of their opportunities to make it two wins from two in four days following a 14-5 win on Wednesday.

England Head Coach Gary Street said: “We are obviously disappointed to lose this match, but it was very useful to get five uncapped players on the pitch today who all showed up. They have shown a tremendous amount of potential as have our other relatively young squad members.

“France put in a strong and powerful performance today and we have learned valuable lessons from that. With several of our experienced players available for selection for our three tests against New Zealand later this month I think we will be in a strong position on the back of this series.”

The match was again played in severely wet conditions with kick off getting underway in torrential rain but England played the conditions well and got off to a great start with debutant Alexandra Matthews scoring after just four minutes. Some good work by centre Emily Scarratt gave England space in France’s 22 and fullback Kay Wilson was also instrumental in taking England’s attacking game forward. Georgina Roberts was in support and a nice inside pass then saw Captain Sarah Hunter come close to the France try line. 18-year-old Matthews then finished off England’s attacking move by muscling her way over the try line. With Scarratt converting England led 7-0.

France had their chances too, first missing a penalty on six minutes, but then fly-half Aurielle Bailon made the most of a second attempt on 11 minutes to reduce the deficit to 7-3. Bailon also had a third attempt on 15 minutes but wasn’t as lucky with her strike that time.

England, however, continued to power on and the forwards made some good space in France’s territory but France were just as powerful and came close to scoring when Wilson was put under pressure in England’s 22. France overturned the ball in the ruck and recycled out to the midfield. A nice chip by Bailon handed France the opportunity to score, but Scarratt covered well in defence. But with Bailon converting a second penalty it was France who had the last word at half-time leaving just one point separating the two teams.

England came out in the second half firing, just like they had done in the first few minutes of the game, and they made an immediate impression on the scoreboard. England were in fact under pressure with France in their 22 but Scarratt was lucky to get the ball away and break through France’s defence to get the ball out to speedster Michael Staniford who charged 65 metres upfield. France’s backs didn’t have Staniford’s speed and the Wasps wing scored with relative ease. Scarratt, however, couldn’t make the conversion.

France again struck back with Bailon adding another penalty to make the score 12-9 but England kept the score board ticking over with a 56th minute Scarratt penalty.

England, however, remained under constant pressure and French executed some powerful drives in their 22. Bailon was again at the heart of their attack and a nice chip through nearly saw France score, only for England to gather up the loose ball and save the try.

France still had the upper hand though and a series of powerful drives put them in real contention to take the lead. England’s defence held firm for some ten minutes but in the end Bailon chipped ahead again and this time wing Laureline Fourcade got on to the end of it and scored in the right corner. Bailon struck the conversion and although it hit the posts it bounced the right way leaving the home side to take a 16-15 lead for the first time with just ten minutes remaining.

England threw everything they had to make up the difference with all seven replacements now on the field and it looked like they had enough with some powerful drives in France’s 22. But France’s defence held firm as they were rallied on by the vociferous home crowd and they took the victory and the two series win over the reigning Six Nations champions.

Sportsister, the Women’s Sports Magazine

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