Hunter hails defiant England after win in France

England head coach Simon Middleton and England's Sarah Hunter (Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra)

England captain Sarah Hunter says that her side’s 19-13 Women’s Six Nations win over France underlines their capacity to perform under pressure.

The winners of the last two Grand Slams met in Pau with England dominating the early stages of the Round 1 clash to race into a 12-0 lead.

But from there, France fought back, with a try from Laure Sansus and the boot of Jessy Trémoulière as their scrum also got on top.

They had their chances early in the second half, but England’s defence held strong, and just after the hour Emily Scarratt burst through for the decisive score.

And Hunter believes that it was the raucous French atmosphere that brought the best out of her side.  

"We relish playing in front of a partisan crowd. You can barely hear each other, let alone think,” she said.

"Fair play to France - they kept coming and coming. It took us a long time to get a win in France. We know every time we come it will be difficult and they certainly didn't let us down today.

"We're not a complacent team at all. The coaches and the girls don't let us do that.

"It's about recovery. We've got a short turnaround before we play Scotland next week.

"We've got off to a good start but we have to keep going, that's for sure."

While France enjoyed large periods of dominance, the opening quarter was all England, with Abby Dow denied an early try by a brilliant Sansus tackle in the right corner.

The winger did not have to wait for long for her try though. After Natasha Hunt had been held over the line, Dow was on hand from the resulting scrum to cross in the corner.

England kept pressing and were rewarded with a second try when Vicky Fleetwood emerged from the back of a dominant maul, with Scarratt this time adding the extras.

France had barely had a sniff, but from their first real chance they got over. Just on the England 22, skipper Gaëlle Hermet chose to pick and go through the heart of a ruck and having gone through, she held off Jess Breach to offload and put Sansus over.

That seemed to raise both France and the crowd and soon after England strayed offside, with Trémoulière slotting the penalty to cut the deficit to two.

France kept pushing to no avail at the end of the half, and it was a similar story to start the second. The introduction of Safi N’Diaye gave them renewed impetus and they regularly got into the England 22, only to make handling errors under pressure.

England had one score chalked off early in the half, a brilliant Sarah Bern burst disallowed for an obstruction that had opened up a gap in the build-up.

But just after the hour they made the break. Amber Reed made a half-break before offloading brilliantly to Scarratt, who burst clean through and under the posts. Her conversion made it 19-10 with time running out for the hosts.

France refused to give in and camped on the England line in search of a second try. They could not find it, although a Trémoulière penalty got them back to within six points to earn a losing bonus point.