Women’s Rugby World Cup: Red Roses clinch 13-7 thriller against France in Auckland

The win for England puts them clear top of Group C; Emily Scarratt proved to be the difference in the first half as she went over for a crucial try; France fought back through Gaelle Hermet but they couldn’t find the winning score with 15 minutes to go

Last Updated: 15/10/22 10:30am

Emily Scarratt was once again the pivotal cog in England’s side as they ground out a closely fought win over France

England continued their record-breaking run with a closely fought 13-7 victory against France at the Rugby World Cup.

The first half was a tight contest, the ever-present Emily Scarratt scoring the only points as she scampered through with 24 minutes gone before extending England’s lead with 30 seconds left on the clock with a crucial penalty conversion to go in 10-0 up at half-time.

After Scarratt found England’s only points of the second half with a conversion on the 61st minute, France continued to stand tall defensively throughout the contest and got their reward with 63 minutes on the clock, Caroline Drouin’s attacking chip ending in a brilliant try for Gaelle Hermet to bring the scoreline to 13-7.

The closeness of the match-up was clearly frustrating England but they managed to hold out for the victory, their scrummaging and line out proficiency combined with Zoe Harrison’s clearance kicking proving the difference between the two sides.

The win puts England clear at the top of Pool C and extends their unbeaten run to 27 Tests before South Africa and Fiji meet tomorrow.

Story of Le Crunch

The first half was a tense affair with both sides chasing hard and building the intensity as the Red Roses relied on the strong running of Amy Cokayne, Abbie Ward, Alex Matthews and Marlie Packer to win the forward battle.

Emily Scarratt was accurate with the boot as England opted for conversions in a contest of 'fine margins'

Emily Scarratt was accurate with the boot as England opted for conversions in a contest of ‘fine margins’

France were dealt a huge blow just 12 minutes into the first half as their playmaking No. 9 Laure Sansus went down injured and that loss was only compounded as their integral No.8 Romane Menager suffered a head injury.

After a momentum-swinging opening quarter, the breakthrough came for England on the 24th minute as, after setting up camp right on France’s line through the work of the pack, Harrison sent it out wide to Scarratt who put in a lovely step back inside to go diving over the whitewash.

With 30 seconds left of the first half, a penalty to the Red Roses for hands in at the ruck extended their lead as they opted for the conversion and Scarratt was once again accurate to give England a 10-0 lead at half-time.

The second half started in a similar manner to the first, with both packs battling it out for territory, a chance for Scarratt going begging on the 50th minute as she came up with a rare mistake in attack right on France’s line.

The opportunities continued to come for England but a staunch French defensive line meant that England were unable to take their attacking opportunities, Scarratt opting for the conversion in the 61st minute to extend their lead to 13-0.

Zoe Harrison controlled the game well as clearance kicks became crucial in the final quarter

Zoe Harrison controlled the game well as clearance kicks became crucial in the final quarter

However, France weren’t done yet and with advantage in their favour they went on the attack, Drouin putting a lovely chip over the top that was collected brilliantly by Joanna Grisez, offloading in the tackle to send Hermet over for a crucial try with just over 15 minutes to go.

The closeness of the contest was frustrating the Red Roses and tempers flared between the two as Le Crunch reached its final few minutes, a late penalty for offside relieving the pressure on England and allowing them to grind out the final few minutes, Harrison kicking the ball dead to secure a record-breaking 27 straight Test wins.

Hunter: It came down to fine margins | “It shows the emotion of what it means to everyone”

It was a special night for England captain Sarah Hunter on her record-equalling England appearance, matching that of legend Rocky Clark, and she was proud of her team’s performance in what was a “showcase” of women’s rugby.

“We know the last few encounters between us and France has come down to fine margins and tonight was no different,” Hunter said.

“Two very good sides going against each other, it was attritional out there.

“It is great for France to put in a performance like that and make us play.

“Hopefully it was a great showcase for women’s rugby and just what happens when two teams really want that win.

“It shows the emotion of what it means to everyone out there.”

What next for England?

England’s final Pool C match is next Sunday October 23 in Auckland as they face South Africa.

South Africa’s World Cup campaign got off to a difficult start against France last week as they suffered a 40-5 loss but they will be looking to get back to winning ways on Sunday as they take on Fiji, who England beat in a record-breaking 84-19 victory.

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