Even after Scarratt and co entered the fray, England couldn’t stop the rot as Cecilie Banet dived for her second score of the game and France’s third. Leading 23-10, Annick Hayraud’s team must have thought they were on their way to a first victory against England since February 2018.
Supported by the return of their Safi N’Diaye lock, they flew out of the blocks and put on an experimental England outfit on the back foot. They dragged the Red Roses defense side to side and won all games 50-50, as England fell victim to their own set pieces. Lark Davies threw the ball over everyone’s heads in a line-up five yards from England’s own tryline, which led Emeline Gros to pounce for France’s first score to nullify the score Zoe Harrison’s previous.
The visitors’ second place was even better, when full-back Shannon Izar made a dizzying run from inside her half, before passing the ball to Cyrielle Barnet who backed up against Ellie Kildunne as France entered the break on cloud nine, leading 15-5. In truth, they should have had an even healthier advantage, if half-fly Caroline Drouin had concealed her early penalty which ultimately cost France the game.
Even their defensive cunning made England look average. After reversing possession on their first two entries into French territory, the Red Roses demanded an answer after Izar’s moment of magic, but Les Bleues held their cool, with N’Diaye and Lauren Sansus teaming up to hold on. Shaunagh Brown. line.
Even Lark Davies’ score after the break did little to change momentum, which only happened when England crossed the French line with one of their trademark mauls driving from a lineout, with Poppy Cleall crashing in the 69th minute to trigger the comeback. Harrison’s loss of conversion simply expanded England’s task, but now they were very different.
Minutes later, Ellie Kildunne appeared to be riding around 10 yards from the French line, but was backed by Claudia Macdonald, who helped propel the Seven-Fifteen star through a sea of blue shirts to rush for another score . This time Scarratt was teeed off and reduced the deficit to one point with seven minutes to spare.
It was too long for France who lacked answers as England came back on them and patiently built the phases with an aura of calm that characterized why they are ranked No.1 in the world at the moment, perhaps knowing that ‘ a penalty would see them at home and dry. He arrived in the dying minutes, and Scarratt, who became England’s all-time top scorer earlier this year, has broken the hearts of the French.
Scoring sequence: 0-3 Drouin pen, 5-3 Harrison test, 5-8 big test, 5-10 Barnet test, 5-15 Drouin con, 10-15 Davies test, 10-18 Drouin pen, 10-23 Barnet test, 15- 23 Cleall try, 20-23 Kildunne try, 22-23 Scarratt con, 25-23, Scarratt pen.
England: E Kildunne, C Macdonald, L Tuima (Scarratt, 59), Z Harrison, A Dow, K Daley-McLean (Rowland, 59), L Riley (Hunt, 59), V Cornborough (Cokayne, 59) L Davies, S Brown (Keates, 59), A Ward, M Talling (Perry 59) H Millar-Mills (Packer, 59), A Matthews (Beckett, 59), P Cleall.
France: S Izar, C Banet, E Pignot, J Ulutele, C Bertrand (Tremouliere 55), C Drouin; L Sansus (Bourdon, 63), A Deshaye (Traoré, 62), A Sochat (Menager, 55), R Bernadou (Joyeux, 62), C Ferer, S N’Diaye (Diallo 65), M Mayans, G Hermet, E Fat.
Arbitrator: Hollie Davison (SRU)