The first match of an England versus France double header at the Halliwell-Jones Stadium in Warrington saw the Women´s game as the two sides returned to the international game for their first outing since the World Cup last November.
It was the twentieth meeting between the two sides, England having win eighteen of the previous encounter while the nineteenth, in June 2015, was drawn. The sides last met in a test match at the same stadium in June last year when England won comfortably by thirty-six points to ten.
Despite a number of changes from their World Cup line-up, the England side were firm favourites for the win.
It was the worst possible start for France as they knocked/on the England kick off behind their own line. England made them pay when Leah Burke took the pass off Georgia Roche in a massive overlap to dive in at the corner. Just over a minute of the clock and England had the lead. Tara Jane Stanley hit the far upright with the conversion attempt.
On seven minutes Burke was held up over the France line and on the next play a kick to the corner was fumbled by France. From the resulting scrum England moved the ball left with Burke finding no opposition to thwart her on this occasion. France looked weak down Burke´s wing, but Stanley was off target again with the boot.
A determined run from Shona Hoyle, shrugging off four tackles to crash over the line from ten metres out and score by the left upright to give Stanley a simple conversion to take the lead out if 14-0.
The fourth try came three minutes later, on twenty-three, when Tamzin Renouf sped round the outside of the cover tackler to go in from fifteen metres. She was able to improve the angle and Stanley banged the conversion between the uprights. It was all far too easy for England.
The flood gates had opened when debutant Eboni Partington took the Renouf pass to go around her opposite number and ground in the right corner. Stanley´s conversion attempt dipped under the crossbar.
On thirty-three the sixth try of the game was again in England’s favour when Tara Jane Stanley dummied the pass before running the angle and going over herself to ground. Stanley drilled her conversion between the posts for 30-0.
Emily Rudge went close on thirty-seven but was injured as she was hauled down just short of the line and had to be assisted from the field. One blot on an otherwise perfect first half.
The second half started as the first had ended with an England try as Hollie-Mae Dodd pushed through a broken defensive lie to score by the sticks. Stanley added the extras for a 36-0 lead.
On forty-six Burke completed her hat-trick with a flying finish as he took a pinpoint Stanley kick to the corner to dive over the line without missing a step, this time the conversion went across the face of the posts.
Dodd got her second with fifty minutes on the clock after a forty-metre run down the centre of the field to the line, diving under the sticks and giving Stanley a simple fifth goal of the game.
As the rain continued the England side brought up their fifty as Sinead Peach scooted from acting half back for a short range try. Stanley added the conversion for 52-0 with sixty-four minutes on the clock.
The rain was now torrential as England exploited the blind side after Stanley had gone close. A fast play the ball saw Roach pass to Burke to get her fourth try of the afternoon. Stanley added the conversion for 58-0, the French being humiliated.
The final try of the game went to Amy Hardcastle as she slid over the line on her backside to ground by her side after going in from ten metres out. Stanley was again on target for a final scoreline of 64-0.
England women exceeded all expectations as they thrashed a French side who should have put up more of a fight. Burke grabbed herself four tries and Stanley a personal haul of twenty points in a comprehensive victory. It was a young French side but, on this showing, they will need to grow up quickly if they are to be any kind of threat when they host the World Cup next time round. A great test for England who will be delighted with the outcome.
England Women: Stanley (T, 8G), Partington (T), Renouf (T), Hardcastle (T), Burke (4T), Harris, Roche, Wood, Bennett, Hoyle (T), Rudge, Dodd (2T), Cunningham. Subs: Peach (T), Whitfield, Field, Molyneux. 18th Man: Jones.
France Women: Samara, Ramazelles, Biville, Guillerot, Canal, Pommier, Canet, Legout, Ramos, Zaghdoudi, Akpa, Kuresa, Samarra. Subs: Michel, Menaa, Segala, Roses. 18th Man: Vilnove.
Score Progression: 4-0, 8-0, 12-0, 14-0, 18-0, 20-0, 24-0, 28-0, 30-0 : HT: 34-0, 36-0, 40-0, 44-0, 46-0, 50-0, 52-0, 56-0, 58-0, 62-0, 64-0 : FT.
Lead Exchanges: England.
Referee: Kristoff Young.