France: (7) 12
Tries: R Menager, Deshayes; Con: Drouin
England: (21) 24
Tries: Bern 2, Ward; Pen: Scarratt; Cons: Scarratt 3

England proved their total dominance of the world game as they won a fourth consecutive Women’s Six Nations title with a Grand Slam victory in France.

England were initially startled in front of a sellout Bayonne crowd as France’s Romane Menager scored first.

But their maul was a formidable weapon with two Sarah Bern and one Abbie Ward tries for a 21-7 lead at half-time.

Annaelle Deshayes’ 66th-minute try gave the vocal fans hope, before England held on for their 23rd win in a row.

That run equals England’s best – set between 1992-97 – and they have now won 10 consecutive games against France, who will be their World Cup pool opponents in October.

After record wins against the Black Ferns in the autumn, this victory places England as firm favourites for the showpiece in New Zealand.

England regroup as atmosphere boils over

The French front pages on Saturday morning promised things would boil over in Bayonne and even during the warm-up the atmosphere at Stade Jean Dauger – sold out more than a month before the game – did not disappoint.

The chants of ‘Allez Les Bleus’ started early as the crowd cheered France’s arrival and booed England before they headed back down the tunnel.

During the week, England had stated their intention to silence the crowd. That message evidently did not reach the resident brass band and when Zoe Harrison dropped a high ball behind her tryline there was an eruption of noise as the knock-on gave France a 5m scrum.

Number eight Menager sniped through a gap for the inevitable score to put England behind – something they had not yet experienced this tournament.

For the first time since 2021’s Six Nations final against France, England were rattled. The Red Roses’ superstars settled their nerves as Poppy Cleall made a solid carry and Helena Rowland followed it up with a stylish 50:22 kick.

England had struggled up front against France last year but now the rolling maul – shaped by forwards coach Louis Deacon – is their brightest star of all.

France offered defiant resistance initially but the pack of white shirts eventually rumbled over the tryline for Bern’s first score.

The second try was a mirror image shortly after as Harrison kicked to the other corner and Ward went over in the maul.

The professional Red Roses are accustomed to keeping hold of momentum once they earn it, but France would never allow that on their own soil.

England wing Lydia Thompson dropped a high ball into touch and intensity grew as the crowd clapped to the beat of a drum before world player of the year Zoe Aldcroft stole the line-out to take all the tension out of the air.

Thompson swiftly made amends with an incredible run that got England back into France’s 22, and a penalty kicked to the corner meant their maul got the job done again as Bern claimed a second.

French pressure soon mounted again as the blue maul bit back, but stopped short as England came dangerously close to a yellow card and a penalty try before Infante pounced on a loose ball and Harrison cleared their lines.

The relief did not last long and England’s defence scrambled until eventually the clock went red and they took the chance to regroup at half-time.

More to follow.

Line-ups

England: Rowland; Thompson, Scarratt (capt), Aitchison, Breach; Harrison, Infante; Cornborough, Davies, Bern, Aldcroft, Ward, Matthews, Packer, Cleall.

Replacements: Cokayne, Botterman, Muir, Galligan, Beckett, Kabeya, Hunt, Kildunne.

France: Jacquet; Boujard, Filopon, Vernier, M Menager; Drouin, Sansus; Deshayes, Sochat, Joyeux, Fall, Forlani, Ferer, Hermet (capt), R Menager.

Replacements: Touye, Lindelhauf, Brosseau, Annery, Gros, Chambon, Tremouliere, Boulard.



Reference-www.bbc.co.uk

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