A last-gasp try secured England Women their first victory over France since 2013 on Tuesday, running out 13-17 winners in the Women's Rugby Super Series in Utah.
A team drive over the line in the final play gave Zoe Aldcroft a try on debut, securing England the win, with the side having dominated for much of the 80 minutes.
Having lost out 52-17 to Canada on Friday, Scott Bemand’s team had a point to prove, but an attritional first half ended 6-3 to France with both defences coming out on top.
Amber Reed’s 46-metre penalty attempt after six minutes was on line but fell short, and two attempts from French centre Camille Boudaud sailed through to put France 6-0 up after half an hour.
A persistent defensive effort from England halted a French rolling maul right on their line, with Tamara Taylor eventually forcing the turnover. This spurred England on to earn their first points of the game through Reed’s boot.
Renewed intensity in the second half saw England rewarded for their relentless pressure when Ceri Large’s dummy allowed her to cut inside for the game’s opening try, which Reed converted.
France responded, scrambling over the line with less than 10 minutes remaining through Agathe Sochat. However, with France having denied England the 2016 Six Nations title, they were not to be deprived again as they pounded away at the French line after a series of penalties. The experience of the forwards paid off with the pack bundling over for the game-winning score with the clock in the red.
Lead coach Scott Bemand said: “That was another typically tough test against the French. Every time we play them, these are genuinely physical and hard matches.
“Perhaps we would have liked to have seen a bit more on the scoreboard but fair play to the French, they defended well and got us under pressure when they went ahead with 10 minutes to go. The character in our group of players, and how they came back from the result against Canada, to keep playing to the death, shows that they understand how to win these international matches.”
Player of the match Amber Reed added: “We were obviously disappointed with how we played last Friday against Canada, and we had a bit of a bone to pick with France coming off the back of the Six Nations.
“So we’re really happy with our performance and how we bounced back as a squad. I think we just had to try and dominate the game up front. We let Canada impose themselves on us last Friday night which is where we fell behind.
“So as a team we were looking to go forward a lot more, and my job is a lot easier when I’ve got a nice platform to play off and my backs are talking to me all game long.”
England now have until Saturday to recover before taking on the US Eagles side that lost out 13-19 to France in their opener.
Reed said: “The USA will pose a totally different challenge. We know they will come at us hard but we’ve just got to look at ourselves and how we play, build our structure, and how we want to characterise ourselves as a team.”
Tries: Large, Alcroft
Cons: Reed 2
Pens: Boudaud 2