England are on course to regain the Women’s Six Nations crown from France after comprehensively defeating the reigning champions 41-26 at Doncaster’s Castle Park.
Played in front of a packed and enthusiastic South Yorkshire crowd, England’s Red Roses took command of the tournament as they seek to win the Six Nations for a 10th time in this the year 18th year of the women’s competition.
France, as defending champions, were favourites but had no answer to the ruthlessness of Simon Middleton’s side.
Indeed, the visitors’ unwillingness to kick for territory in the first half proved their undoing as despite their free-flowing nature they frequently got themselves into trouble which the physically-superior England exploited.
The Red Roses ran in four tries in the first half to open up a 24-0 lead.
Jess Breach got the first after a fine cross-kick from Katy Daly-McLean and then Poppy Cleall barrelled over after another fine kick from Emily Scarrett put France on the back foot.
Yet another Scarrett kick sent winger Kelly Smith tearing over and Breach got her second after backing up Sarah McKenna on the stroke of half-time.
France scored two of the first three tries to start the second half, firstly through Safi N’Diaye and then a brilliant dummy by scrum-half Pauline Bourdon.
But a second from flanker Cleall sandwiched in between quashed any French hopes of a comeback.
Further scores from forwards Hannah Botterman and Catherine O’Donnell eased England to victory before Bourdon added her second just moments after taking a hit to the head.
Romane Menager scored a fourth try for France which gave the scoreboard a little more respectability from their perspective, but it was a convincing win by the Red Roses in front of an impressive crowd of 4,674 who sang the England rugby anthem of ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’ with all the gusto of a raucous Twickenham.