It was a far closer game than in Paris, needless to say - one try each, with the difference being France's Audrey Abadie's first half penalty and drop goal (talented young lady - clearly not going to be slumming it in Federale 1 for much longer!). England's first half try from Bucks Jester Lauren Cattell was unconverted, giving France a 6-5 half-time lead. St Oren's Margaux Deyland extended France's lead with an unconverted try in the second half.
Admittedly neither England nor France were not at full strength - both England captain and vice-captain were missing. Those in the know say that the game was close to a "B" international with the younger players having a chance to prove themselves. The real game is on Saturday, apparently. Cannot help thinking that this will not stop the French celebrating.
Official RFUW match report:
Although England lost 11-5 the hosts raised their game on home turf and will now look forward to their next clash against France on Saturday April 7th, at Moulton College, kick off 1pm.
In rain-soaked and blustery conditions both sides managed to touch down for a try with fly-half Lauren Cattell (Chesham RFC) England’s scorer and flanker Margaux Deylaud for France. But in the end it was the boot of France No. 10 Audrey Abadie that proved decisive as she kicked a drop goal and a penalty.
In the opening stages of the game both England and France battled against the elements to try and put some points on the board but the weather proved restrictive for both sides. England worked hard at the breakdown and showed a real improvement in their physicality whilst their line speed throughout their backs was much improved, but in the end errors for both sides led to missed opportunities and only a drop goal from Abadie on 22 minutes separated the two sides.
England were then penalised for being offside in the breakdown in their 22 and France, with the wind in their favour, made the most of their opportunity and converted the points to take a 6-0 on 32 minutes.
The battle, however, between the two sides remained at a high tempo and England continued to put pressure on France and in the end some good work by Plymouth Albion lock Courtney Gill saw her charge down a clearance kick from Abadie. The ball ricochet into the air and Cattell gathered to then dive over the try-line and score. Cattell, kicking into the wind, wasn’t however able to make the conversion with her kick falling just short, and leaving the score at 6-5 at half-time.
The second half continued in much the same way, with both sides eager to assert their dominance. With England conceding an early penalty, France kicked to touch and then executed a strong line-out, catch and drive which saw flanker Deylaud take the clean ball and muscle her way over the line to score an important try. With France now kicking into the wind Abadie was also unable to make the conversion, with the elements taking their toll.
Going into the final quarter France looked to have the edge in terms of possession and territory but England’s physicality and intensity kept the tourists at bay, leaving them without any further scoring opportunities and keeping the score to 11-5 at full-time.
England Assistant Coach Steve Halsey said: “This is a bitter, sweet defeat really. Although we are disappointed to have lost the game the players showed real improvement in the areas we have worked hard on – our physicality and our intensity – and that meant we were able to dominate areas of the game rather than be dominated and reactive as we were in France last month. We could still have improved on our execution, although the weather also did play a part there, but with another game coming up against France in a couple of days’ time we will have the opportunity to make those improvements and hopefully this time come away with a win. This is a young group of players, who have already made a big step-up this season, and I am confident that if we carry on making these improvements then we will have a very competitive and experienced squad next season.”