England captain Sarah Hunter scored twice to steer the Red Roses to their first victory in France in seven years as they ran out 20-10 winners in the first of their Autumn internationals against Les Bleues in Clermont.
It was all France in the opening quarter, the hosts taking the lead through Jessy Trémoulière but two tries from Hunter and a faultless kicking performance from World Rugby Player of the Year Emily Scarratt sent England to a comeback victory at the Marcel Michelin.
Les Bleues looked like they were on the brink of recovering their lead when Camille Boudard reduced the deficit to seven points with twenty minutes to go, but Scarratt did what she does best and put the game to bed with her second penalty to secure the win for the Red Roses.
Captain Hunter said: “It wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t a perfect game, but we knew that before coming here today.
“France at home is always a difficult proposition and they didn’t disappoint today. It was a true Test match.
“We had to ride a few storms out there and find a way to dig out some points to get the victory.”
The hosts came out like a house on fire in Clermont, dominating all the early plays and possession but failing to make the most of their bright start, Trémoulière missing her first penalty before converting the second.
The Red Roses managed to withstand the early French pressure and levelled the score when Scarratt landed a long-range penalty won by Marlie Packer.
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) November 9, 2019
While it was England who barely touched the ball in the first 20 minutes, the remainder of the first-half told quite the opposite tale, as Simon Middleton’s side took full control of possession and stormed into a 17-3 half-time lead thanks to two tries from Hunter.
The hosts started the second-half positively but the pressure appeared to be getting to Les Bleues as they made a mess of two line-outs from good positions before a string of loose passes prevented them from getting themselves back into the game.
It looked like the odds were just not in their favour, but the home side finally found their breakthrough on 62 minutes, Boudard scoring her team’s first try with Trémoulière adding the conversion.
But it was too little, too late for Les Bleues who once again failed to capitalise on their dominance in possession, Scarratt slotting a penalty with 10 minutes to go to secure the 20-10 victory.
The result represented the first time the Red Roses have beaten France away for seven years, but Les Bleues won’t have to wait long to go for revenge, with the two sides facing each other again in Exeter next Saturday.