Resurgent Red Roses soar to more Grand Slam glory against France in Bayonne

·4-min read
England claimed their fourth consecutive TikTok Women's Six Nations title
England claimed their fourth consecutive TikTok Women's Six Nations title

By James Reid in Bayonne

England sealed the 2022 TikTok Women's Six Nations crown, and another Grand Slam, with a 24-12 victory over France in a frenetic deciding match in Bayonne.

A first-half brace from prop Sarah Bern either side of an Abbie Ward try was enough for Simon Middleton's team to secure a fourth consecutive Championship title.

It had almost been a nightmare start for the visitors as Romane Menager crashed over inside three minutes to whip up a frenzied crowd in South West France, but the Red

Roses kept their composure to complete a first-half comeback and with it the Championship.

With so much on the line, England started nervously, repeatedly kicking away possession straight into the hands of France, and the hosts took full advantage with just three minutes on the clock.

Fly-half Zoe Harrison fumbled a kick deep into England’s 22, and Laure Sansus darted for the line from the resulting scrum before eventually finding Menager who went over under the posts.

The Red Roses were clearly rattled by a nightmare start and a buoyant home crowd in Bayonne but soon recovered their composure, Helena Rowland kicking a superb 50:22 to provide the launchpad for England’s first try of the game 10 minutes in.

As they have on so many occasions, England struck from their imperious rolling maul. Lark Davies’ line out was well-taken and Bern went over to level the score and Emily Scarratt added the extras.

The momentum was all with the visitors now who had recovered from a sluggish start to look like the dominant side we have seen all Championship.

France simply could not deal with the power of England’s maul, conceding a number of penalties throughout the half and the visitors struck again just five minutes later.

This time Ward was the grateful recipient, as the second-row charged over from close range after yet another Davies line out.

Middleton’s charges were dominant by this point as the game entered its second quarter, France time and time again being pulled up by the referee at mauls and rucks, and England had their third try after 26 minutes.

Bern grabbed her second of the afternoon with another well-worked lineout routine, crashing over from short range to put England 21-7 to the good.

The hosts were reeling after a 15-minute blitz from the visitors but improved in the final 10 minutes of the half, spurred on by the ever-energetic Sansus.

Les Bleues piled on the pressure with a series of lineouts and mauls just metres from the line but England’s defence refused to buckle.

This time it was England giving away the penalties under the relentless intensity from France, but wave after wave was repelled before the ball was finally turned over and kicked clear with just two minutes of the half remaining to send England in 21-7 at the break.

France ended the first period on the front foot and started the second in the same vein as they dominated ball in hand in search of a try to get them back into the game.

Their task was made easier just four minutes into the half as Harrison saw yellow for a deliberate knock-on, but still England’s defence would not relent despite their numerical disadvantage, consistently spoiling Les Bleues attacks with their dominance at set-pieces.

As Harrison returned to the field, England had not conceded a point and it was soon the turn of France to be reduced to 14, Maelle Filopon falling foul of the same offence and allowing Scarratt to knock over an important penalty to extend the Red Roses’ lead.

France continued to push for a try to get themselves and got the breakthrough with 12 minutes left to play.

Emilie Boulard’s terrific line break brought France all the way up the pitch and it was a position they never relented through patient play as they played the phases and penalties to eventually see Annaelle Deshaye crash over from a metre out after another well-worked lineout.

Les Bleues continued to look for a way further back into this match and set up a grandstand finish, but were unable to truly trouble England's defence as the time ticked away and the visitors held out for a famous win.

The TikTok Women’s Six Nations is more accessible than ever before. To find out how you can watch the Women’s Championship visit: womens.sixnationsrugby.com/tv/

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