England claimed their third Women’s Six Nations title in a row with a hard-fought 10-6 victory over France at Twickenham Stoop.
A try from Poppy Cleall plus a conversion and a penalty from Emily Scarratt, gave England a narrow win in a game where they struggled in the scrum and the lineout.
France certainly had their chances and were dominant for large parts of the game, but will be frustrated that they only had two Caroline Drouin penalties to show for their efforts.
The 2021 format was changed to two pools with the two winners heading to the final – England were dominant in Pool A, easily beating Scotland and Italy with bonus-point wins.
France, meanwhile, had been equally as dominant in Pool B, crushing Wales in Vannes and Ireland in Dublin to set up the final.
France, who last won the title in 2018, came out with all guns blazing but England’s defence and unforced errors kept them out.
England also had their chances despite their scrum creaking and it was Cleall who gave them a lead on the stroke of half-time after she powered over from short range. Scarratt, who had missed two earlier penalties, converted for the 7-0 lead.
Drouin posted two penalties after the turnaround as France battled back into the contest, with England struggling to contain the visitors to The Stoop.
The mistakes mounted as the pressure told on England, but the hosts’ robust defence denied France any chance of a try that could have turned the game.
And just when the French thought they would be able to break the home resistance, England powered upfield through a sequence of driven lineouts and then pick-and-go phases off rucks.
The home side played the clock and the French breakdown inaccuracy to perfection, milking a kickable penalty at the death.
Scarratt duly stepped up and slotted the goal, with England then negotiating the final minute to claim the victory, and with it their third Six Nations crown in a row.
Ireland claim third place
Ireland stormed to a 25-5 victory over Italy on the final day of the Women’s Six Nations to claim third place overall.
Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe starred on her first Ireland start with a solo score early in the second half and another towards the end of the game.
It was a return to earth for Italy after their impressive 41-20 win over Scotland last week, although they did manage to score a second-half try through Melissa Bettoni.
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