England dominate France to move into pole position in battle for Women's Six Nations
PUBLISHED: 14:46 10 February 2019
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England took a major step towards the Women's Six Nations title with a massively-convincing 41-26 triumph over France.
The two teams have accounted for every championship title bar two in the last 20 years and with England having already beaten the only other side to win one, Ireland, the game at Castle Park in Doncaster could have been seen as a championship decider.
If it was, it was all over by half-time with four Red Roses’ tries.
And even though France threatened a way back into the game with two tries, England simply matched their efforts and eventually powered their way to a comfortable victory.
Harpenden’s Sarah McKenna retained her place at full-back in an unchanged back division but Datchworth’s Hannah Botterman had to settle for a place on the bench alongside another former Welwyn junior, Zoe Harrison.
The Old Albanian Saints coach thought she had given the Red Roses the perfect start too after just five minutes.
A scrum in midfield was taken on by Sarah Hunter before being shipped wide where McKenna had joined the line.
And after a typically jinking run she blitzed her way across the line.
However, with Katy Daley-McLean lining up the conversion, the referee called for the TMO, possibly after a shout from the television official themselves, and eventually the try was ruled out for an infringement at the set-piece.
It wasn’t long though before England did have the lead and probably as expected it came from the try-scoring machine Breach.
It was the shortest distance of the lot mind but she still had work to do to first collect Daley-McLean’s cross-field kick and then avoid the French defence.
France did threaten briefly but solid defence kept them out and they soon had a second.
It was another from short-range, not that Saracens’ Poppy Cleall cared and she picked up the ball from a few yards out to score.
That was after a run from Kelly Smith but she would not be denied her own score and after an Emily Scarratt kick through, a big feature of the England performance in the first-half, and Breach would bring up the bonus-point on the stroke of half-time.
Those final two tries had been scored while England were down to 14, Vicki Cornborough sitting out for 10 minutes, but the final try was made by McKenna, whose angles of running were a joy to watch.
France were able to pull one try back immediately after the restart when Safi N’Diaye was given the freedom of Castle Park and romped in unopposed but with England back up to full strength, they came straight back with Cleall getting her second.
Bourdon found the England defence a shadow of their first-half selves three minutes later as she scorched through a gap but that seemed to galvanise the minds and from there, they never got a look-in.
Sarah Bern was presented with a glorious chance following an outrageous dummy from Leanne Riley but she saw the chance literally slip from her grasp as she was heading to ground to score.
But it was only a temporary respite for Les Bleus as England’s forwards kept up their relentless pressure.
Botterman was at the end of one charge from the white pack and Catherine O’Donnell got the seventh try in similar circumstances.
Bourdon, the one bright spot for France, got her second late on while England were missing the services of Harrison, a second yellow card being seen by one of the Red Roses.
But this was as dominating a performance as you get and one which will have Wales, Italy and Scotland in no rush to meet the an English team that worryingly can still get even better.
England: Cornborough, Davies, Bern, O’Donnell, Scott, P.Cleall, Leitch, Hunter, Riley, Daley-McLean, Smith, Heard, Scarratt, Breach, McKenna.
Replacements: Cokayne, Botterman, Brown, Burnfield, Beckett, Hunt, Harrison, Scott.
Tries: Breach 12, 40, Cleall 28, 45, Smith 36, Botterman 59, O’Donnell 68.
Conversions: Daley-McLean 12, 36, 59.
France: Arricastre, Thomas, Joyeux, Corson, N’Diaye, Hermet, Ferer, Menager, Bourdon, Imart, Murie, Vernier, Jason, Boujard.
Replacements: Sochat, Traore, Argagnon, Forlani, Diallo, Rivoalen, Lissar, Constanty.
Tries: N’Diaye 42, Bourdon 48, 76, Menager 80
Conversions: Bourdon 42, 76, 80.
HT: England 24 France 0
Referee: Tim Baker (Hong Kong)