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France 21-42 England: Women’s Six Nations decider – as it happened
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France 21-42 England: Women’s Six Nations decider – as it happened

Sarah Rendell’s report is here! She’s on the ground in Bordeaux and delivers first-hand insight into the victory which clinched England’s sixth successive Women’s Six Nations crown. Thanks for following it with me.

This caps a dominant Six Nations for England. The table does not lie: five wins from five; maximum bonus points; a whopping points difference of +229.

Le Crunch was the only time they even came close to being tested and they were never behind and won by 21 points in France. John Mitchell has wanted to introduce a more expansive style of play and, although England have shown that increasingly in this competition, they needed their defence to be solid today. It did not let them down.

England’s Natasha Hunt and Holly Aitchison are giving France their flowers, as the kids (possibly) say, on TV. Praising the hosts for keeping it to 7-7 in the second half despite being a player down for the majority of it.

Ellie Kildunne, almost certainly the player of this tournament, cheerily says that it was “good to silence” France. So that’s another way of looking at it! Hey, both can be true.

England are waiting to lift the Six Nations trophy, grins plastered all over faces as you would expect. Good to see: lots of the home fans who’ve spent a good portion of the last 80 minutes booing the visitors are sportingly staying around to applaud the champions.

Marlie Packer has her medal and she makes the team wait … before joining them on the stage and hoisting the trophy high!

“Super proud of the girls,” says a delighted England skipper, Marlie Packer on BBC TV. “We’ve been building as a group. We’re well and truly into the John Mitchell era; this is how we want to play… We can turn it up when we need to.”

The first half was a thriller here in Stade Chaban-Delmas. It was like two sluggers trading haymakers, but England’s defence stood up better and France were not as clinical.

The second half was a scrappier affair but even down to 14 players, after Assia Khalfaoui’s red card, Les Bleues were a threat. England stood up to that test.

England win! The triple grand slam is theirs. The Red Roses celebrate in Bordeaux. They scored six tries to France’s three. They were truly tested today by a dangerous if error-prone France side and they came through it with flying colours. Mission accomplished for the visitors.

78 min: Alex Matthews is named the player of the match. She’s nabbed two tries today but been impeccable in defence as well. She’s been involved in almost everything good for England.

76 min: France do get over the line but they cannot ground it! Lucy Packer, on off the bench, sneaks herself under the ball – another fine piece of defence.

75 min: France have a lineout deep in England’s 22. Can they grab a try to narrow the scoreline?

That settles the game and seals the grand slam! England get their first try of the second half – Emily Scarratt being on the pitch helps, the ball comes to Alex Matthews and she goes over. Aitchison kicks, missing nothing today. England’s lead is unassailable.

France find a way through! They spread play wide, Vernier does the hard work and Romane Ménager goes over in the corner. The extras are kicked once again. That’s pretty impressive for the side with 14 players.

67 min: France have the ball but are they running out of ideas and/or steam? They can’t seem to find a way through in a scrappy passage of play – and now the rain starts to pour down.

63 min: France plough into the England defence, putting pressure on the line. But it’s a wall of white shirts in front of them right now, the visitors very disciplined. Ménager knocks on. The England defensive coaches, including Sarah Hunter, will be loving that.

60 min: Cokayne’s lineout is perfect (copy; paste). England are trying to find an opening by stretching play – but France interrupt. Neither side can seem to keep hold of the ball for any length of time right now.

58 min: England break and put the ball in France territory – but Les Bleues come back again. It’s end to end stuff, albeit without the tries of the first half. Yet it finishes up with an England penalty in the middle of the park. Ellie Kildunne is getting a little more of the ball now but France are battling hard.

57 min: The hosts break with some expansive play. They cannot find the opening but are playing very well with 14. They have a lineout and Romane Ménager snatches it.

54 min: France break and show great handling skills. But England’s defence is staunch one again. Anne-Cécile Ciofani’s knock-on, under no pressure, hands possession back to the visitors.

53 min: France play the ball around. Is it just a bit too slow? They’re letting England get set in defence. Hannah Botterman punches the air as she wins the ball back for England.

The yellow card has been upgraded is the news from the officials. “High degree of danger, no mitigation,” comes the verdict. Khalfaoui is on tears on the bench – the challenge didn’t look vindictive at all but the decision is that it was too dangerous.

France’s mountain to climb has just become Everest.

47 min: A second scrum penalty against England. Then France earn another penalty on halfway. So far, they’re doing well with 14 – advancing down the field despite the player disadvantage.

45 min: Clara Joyeux comes on as prop and it’s the captain who makes way. Manaé Feleu runs over to the bench. An interesting move.

Yellow card for Assia Khalfaoui. England’s Morwenna Talling caught one there and the decision is a yellow card and Khalfaoui is in the bunker. France are down to 14.

44 min: France’s turn to ping the ball around and search for openings in the England defence. A knock-on, however, and we’ll restart with an England scrum … Before that we’re having a look at a head contact. The TMO is involved.

43 min: A France turnover, they win a penalty and Bourdon Sansus looks to tap and take it quickly – but there’s a player down injured so the referee pulls play back. Nothing serious. France still have a penalty.

42 min: An England lineout near halfway, Cokayne’s throws have been inch perfect. England have the ball and are passing it around neatly.

England kick off the second half! It’s the final 40 mins of the 2024 Women’s Six Nations. The grand slam is on the line. Can France spark a fightback?

A word for the kickers: Holly Aitchison is five from five, Lina Queyroi is two from two. Some of those conversions have come from some difficult positions, as well. Chapeau to both.

France will feel some borderline calls went against them. Can that sense of injustice rouse them for a comeback? Worth pointing out that they battled back and scored 33 points in the second half of this fixture last year to almost complete an epic turnaround. This, however, is probably a better England side.

And exhale – what a half that was. England made the most of their opportunities and exploited any and all defensive errors, grabbing five tries. France have been on top in the scrum but have been nowhere near as clinical as their opponents. End to end stuff.

Amy Cokayne’s lineout has been immaculate – and she gets a try now on top of that! Cokayne forces the ball over near the line. Aitchison is once again perfect in converting from out wide. She’s been immaculate too.

38 min: France scrum inside their own 22, Bourdon Sansus snatches the ball and kicks. She’s been France’s best player so far but England will still sniff a fifth try.

Source: theguardian.com