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ENGLAND took a massive step towards winning the Women’s Six Nations with an emphatic 41-26 victory over reigning champions France in Doncaster.
In a contest which was widely billed as a title decider following impressive wins for both sides in the opening round of fixtures, England raced into a 24-0 lead at half-time and survived a brief French rally to run out comfortable winners.
The home side thought they had opened the scoring in the fifth minute when full-back Sarah McKenna breezed past two opponents to touch down under the posts, but following an intervention from the TMO the try was ruled out after Poppy Leitch was penalised for blocking Romane Menager in the scrum.
It did not take for long for England to break the deadlock however, with Jess Breach touching down in the 11th minute after collecting a pinpoint cross-field kick from fly-half Katy Daley-Mclean, whose conversion made her the first English woman to pass the landmark of 500 international points.
Poppy Cleall then crashed over from close range after winger Kelly Smith had been stopped just short of the line and England increased their lead through Breach’s second score despite Vickii Cornborough being shown a yellow card for a high tackle.
A frantic start to the second half saw three tries scored in the space of seven minutes, with Safi N’Diaye and the influential Pauline Bourdon scoring for France and Cleall grabbing her second try for the Red Roses.
But tries from substitute Hannah Botterman and Cath O’Donnell effectively put the result beyond doubt and late scores from Bourdon and Romane Menager were little consolation for the well-beaten visitors.
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