Emily Scarratt’s late penalty saw the Red Roses beat France Women 20-18 to make it three wins from three at the Women’s Rugby Super Series in San Diego and move top of the table.
In warm, sunny conditions in California, England went into the match off the back of two wins having beaten USA 38-5 in their opener and then overcome Canada 19-17, and the 15 unanswered points in the second half, all from centre Scarratt, saw England continue their 100% record so far.
France were ahead just after a minute when a crossfield kick found Cyrielle Banet for her to dot down, but after Amber Reed had a try disallowed for grounding, from the resultant scrum Kelly Smith took the ball off the back of it and sprinted around the outside to score – her third try in three games.
Caroline Boujard’s darting run restored France’s lead, with Jessy Tremouliere converting and then the French full back, and current world player of the year, knocked over two penalties for a 5-18 half-time advantage.
England would score the first points of the second half on 50 minutes as Zoe Harrison’s crossfield kick bounced for Scarratt to drop down on for a try.
Scarratt’s second try was from the same combination as Harrison’s high kick was superbly taken out of the air by the centre, and Scarratt wrestled to the ground to score and then added the conversion.
With eight minutes left Scarratt then kicked a central 25-metre penalty as England took the lead for the first time in the match and they closed the game out for their ninth win in 2019.
Captain Sarah Hunter won her 115th cap in the game which puts her one ahead of Jason Leonard and joint second on England’s all-time appearance list with lock Tamara Taylor.
England will now face New Zealand in their final match of the 2019 Super Series on Sunday 14 July, where the tournament moves to San Diego State University’s Torero Stadium for the final round. Simon Middleton’s side sit three points above New Zealand going into the final game of the tournament on 13 points, with the Black Ferns on 10.
“It was a great Test match and hopefully everyone who watched it appreciated what both sides put into it," said Middleton.
“The character in our team to come back from a tough position we knew we could as we’ve got a lot of belief in being able to close games out – we did it against Canada and we’ve done it again today with some monumental efforts on the field.
“We said at half-time that if we could play in the right areas of the field it was a 20-point win. We still didn’t play enough in the right areas but we got just enough to get the points that we needed.
“Scaz [Emily Scarratt] is a bit special isn’t she? There is nothing she cannot do really. She will be the first one to put her hand up and say the kicks that she received from Zoe Harrison put both into a great area, and we’re thrilled as it’s something we worked on in the week.
“New Zealand will be hurting from their defeat against France, they’re world champions and it’s always going to be a tough game when you play against them. We’re going to have to regroup and dust ourselves down, but one thing we won’t be short of is spirit.”
Image Credit: Travis Prior