England Women Under-20s 5
France Womens Under-20s 17
IT WAS a day to forget for Gloucestershire’s England Women Under-20s contingent after they lost to their French counterparts at Esher.
After Drybrook’s Ceri Large could not stop France inflicting the senior squad’s first defeat at Twickenham on Saturday, six county youngsters did not fare much better.
Wings Mary-Ann Gittings and Holly Molesworth, fly-half Megan Goddard, hooker Lucy Aylesbury, lock Courtney Gill, and blindside Lucie Wood all flew the Gloucestershire flag but could not prevent lightning striking twice.
In their first international of the season France proved too much of a handful for a young England side that were fielding ten uncapped players at this level in the match day squad.
England held France to a 7-5 lead at half-time but in the end the French pulled away with replacement Léna Auriol touching down for France’s third and final try.
England U20s Head Coach Amanda Bennett said: “This was a much improved performance to the defeats we suffered against France a year ago and to be honest the game was much closer than the score-line suggests.
“We were very much in the game at half-time and overall I was very impressed with our work rate and our physicality – we were pinning the French down and getting back in defence.
“This certainly was a competitive game but we weren’t able to create the breaks and take the points. There is a lot to work on and we will do that over the next three weeks.”
France kicked off the match with some good momentum and England were soon put on the backfoot.
They paid the price when the visitors made the most of the opportunities that were there with fly-half Camille Imart executing an accurate chip and chase from the breakdown.
The number eight picked up and then offloaded to scrum-half and skipper Marie Menanteau who touched down under the posts on six minutes.
Vice-captain Camille Cabalou added the conversion.
England battled hard to get back into the game but struggled to get past the midfield.
France too had to work hard and couldn’t make any further impression on the score board with the likes of Wood, Kayleigh Callaway Bawden and Abbie Scott influential in the backrow.
In the end Scott’s moment came when some good continuity and pressure by England saw Scott cut a nice line and break through some defensive tackles to crash over the try-line to score.
Skipper Goddard could not make the conversion leaving England 7-5 adrift at the break.
After the restart England and France were once again neck and neck and it wasn’t until the 50th minute that France pulled away from England with a try from a line-out, catch and drive and then a driving maul.
Flanker Chloé Placines got on the end of it and took the spoils but Cabalou could not convert this time.
And that was where the scoring ended until the 80th minute of the game.
England and France both defended staunchly but the battle was played in the middle of the field despite some nice breaks from the likes of Rochelle Smith and Goddard.
France, however, were more clinical and when their chance came they took it.
As the seconds counted down the visitors executed a well worked line-out, catch and drive and the ball was recycled out and replacement Auriol went over in the corner.
Cabalou could not add the conversion but it did not matter as France took the victory.
England Women U20s will now play France on March 15 in Dijon.
England U20s: Georgia Peedle; Mary-Ann Gittings, Rochelle Smith, Rachel Roberts, Holly Molesworth; Megan Goddard, Leanne Riley; Amy Needham, Lucy Aylesbury, Eleanor Prescott; Courtney Gill, Francesca Hall; Lucie Wood, Kayleigh Callaway-Bawden, Abbie Scott . Replacements: Clara Nielson, Mica Evans, Scarlett Cooper-Wall, Ellen Gattlin, Carys Williams, Bianca Blackburn, Florence Williams, Rosie Kells.
France U20s: Aissetou Diallo; Meryl Dubertrand, Camille Boudaud, Camille Cabalou, Cyrielle Banet; Camille Imart Marie Menanteau, Jennifer Mengue Ndong, Wendy Divoux, Marjorie Vaz; Pia Clave Chastang, Chloé Placines; Roxane Bilon, Marina Kerembellec, Marion Garnier. Replacements: 16 Céline Espit, Léna Auriol, Laura Menetrier, Charline Corro, Gladys Bertrand, Anaïs Marcon, Kimberley Laugaudin, Aurélie Guillee.