|Women’s Six Nations: England v France|
|England: (24) 41|
|Tries: Breach 2, Cleall 2, Smith, Botterman, O’Donnell Cons: Mclean 3|
|France: (0) 26|
|Tries: Bourdon 2, N’Diaye, R Menager Cons: Bourdon 3|
England dominated Grand Slam champions France to claim a crucial bonus-point win in Doncaster and become favourites to win the Women’s Six Nations.
The game was billed as a tournament decider, but England’s dynamic attack saw them score seven tries to four.
Wing Jess Breach and forward Poppy Cleall both crossed twice, while Kelly Smith, Hannah Botterman and Cath O’Donnell also scored.
England have won both their matches so far and are top of the table.
France did come away with a bonus point after a late flurry of tries, with two from scrum-half Pauline Bourdon.
It was a confident start for England thanks to Breach and Cleall’s first tries, but the hosts went down to 14 players when Vickii Cornborough was sent off for a high tackle.
However, the Red Roses remained ruthless in attack and extended their lead through wing Smith.
With both sides claiming more than 50 points in round one, it was bound to be a high-scoring affair and broken play led to three tries in the first 10 minutes after the break.
Safi N’Diaye and Bourdon scored for France, but Cleall’s second try settled England’s nerves in front of 4,674 fans at Castle Park.
Her fellow forwards continued to work hard, earning another 10 points as replacement Botterman and lock O’Donnell barrelled over.
France ensured they did not leave empty-handed though, with tries from Bourdon and Romane Menager.
England face Wales in the third round on 24 February, while France play Scotland in Lille on 23 February.
Daley-Mclean pulls the strings
Fly-half Katy Daley-Mclean went past 500 points for England in the game, but she contributed much more than just goal-kicking.
The World Cup winner was not afraid to take risks against the third-best side in the world.
Daley-Mclean’s cross-field kick which led to Breach’s first try seemed like a questionable move with England in a solid attacking position, but it came off perfectly.
And later, a beautifully-timed pass from the number 10 to full-back Sarah McKenna set up a second for Breach.
Player-of-the-match Breach and centre Emily Scarratt switched to XVs from sevens in December, just in time to be awarded full-time contracts with England.
Both were just as creative as Daley-Mclean against Les Bleues, who were given part-time contracts in November.
Former Team GB captain Scarratt showed flair all afternoon, sending a kick through which Smith gathered before outrunning the French defence to score.
On the opposite wing, France struggled to contain Breach, who showed devastating pace to claim her two tries.