France captain Gaëlle Hermet rued a crucial five minutes before half-time as key to defeat as her side’s dreams of winning the 2022 TikTok Women’s Six Nations and the Grand Slam were dashed by England in Bayonne.
France made the perfect start as Romane Menager went over under the posts after three minutes, but Les Bleues were quickly pegged back by the visitors to trail 21-7 at the break.
The home side struggled with England’s set-pieces, with all three tries coming from rolling mauls and Hermet was frustrated with how her side dealt with the visitors’ threat.
“Just before half-time when we were in their half, we had to score,” said Hermet.
“If we had, I think the game would have been different.
“In the first half we gave away a lot of penalties, we conceded two tries from rolling mauls.
“We knew what to expect, we knew that if we gave away penalties we would be up against rolling mauls and it would probably lead to tries.
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England’s forwards were dominant for much of the game at both scrums and lineouts, and were able to consistently disrupt France’s attacks with stolen ball, as well as providing a platform for their own plays.
“We know they are well-drilled and we felt we defended quite well, we could have conceded more,” added Hermet.
“But those are the consequences of the penalties we gave away in our half which led to rolling mauls. They are very good and very organised in that area.
“We know that they are a very good team, they are the team that causes us the most problems at the moment.
“They have lots of jumpers in the lineout and in the first half we were not able to adapt to what they were doing.
“It was better in the second half, but we know that if we don’t get clean ball from the set-piece for the three-quarters, it’s much harder.
“There is a strategy put in place before the game but then it’s up to us on the pitch to adapt. We’ve got a step to go in that regard.”
France pushed for a way back into the game throughout the second half and had chances to set up a grandstand finish, including a terrific break from Emilie Boulard, but the England defence stood strong under the pressure.
Les Bleues boss Annick Hayraud knew her side had enough chances after the break and was disappointed with their inability to take them in such a crucial match.
“There are regrets because I think we had opportunities that we didn’t take. That’s the game, but when you play in a final, it’s even harder to take.
“I think we had ambitions in this 2022 Championship and looking at the way the game went, we are disappointed and frustrated as well.”