Are the English Women beatable after all?
rfu.com and James Mortimer 26 Feb 2013 Getty Images
But the French Women, the only European side to constantly challenge their English counterparts, raided Twickenham courtesy of a giant forward pack.
England perhaps paid the price for spreading their resources so thin, with 17 players removed from the Six Nations to focus on Seven's commitments.
Their first ever loss at the home of England rugby saw their chances of retaining the Six Nations crown slip away.
The young side scored through Kay Wilson and Hannah Gallagher, as well as the boot of Amber Reed and Harriet Millar-Mills, but were unable to compete with the visitors’ impressive five-try display.
Les Bleus played the opening period deep in England’s half and their first score came after 12 minutes when Guiglion Elodie dived over in the corner.
England immediately responded through Kay Wilson after Sally Tuson and Hannah Gallagher both drove close but were held up just short. Amber Reed converted from a difficult angle for a 7-5 lead.
Undeterred, the French continued to pressure and following a successful penalty from Sandrine Agricole, Lucille Godiveau scored their second try. The centre capitalised on the lucky bounce which resulted from full back Caroline Ladagnous’ chip through.
A Reed penalty minutes later reduced France’s lead as the clock turned 33 minutes but the visitors grabbed a crucial score just before half time when the TMO deemed that Safi N’Diaye had touched down.
France continued their assault straight after half time with a try from Christelle Chobet, extending their lead to 10-25. A decent break from Godiveau put the blues in a good position for the forwards to push for the line.
England worked hard to gain territory but struggled to break down the French defence until replacement Katie McClean burst down the wing before offloading to winger Wilson who was unfortunate to be forced into touch.
The attack boosted England’s confidence and gave them the upper hand as good forward play and running from Tuson kept the pressure on the visitors.
A knock on from Millar-Mills denied England their second try but the opportunity for points soon followed when Reed scored the penalty which resulted from a yellow for try scoring No. 8 N’Diaye.
Despite being a man down France continued to push for another score and again proved dangerous out wide when full back Caroline Ladagnous skipped through tackles to cross the line with five minutes to go.
It was England however who had the final say when a storming run from replacement Emily Scott left her inches short of the line. The ball was sent in field and Hannah Gallagher broke through the French defence dive under the posts. Millar-Mills converted to justly reduce the deficit to 20-30.