England beat a spirited France 38-33 to win their fifth straight women’s Six Nations title with a Grand Slam in front of a record-breaking crowd at Twickenham on Sunday to give coach Simon Middleton a fitting farewell.
With 58,498 fans in attendance, top-ranked side England struggled with nerves at first before pulling away from third-ranked France to go into the break with a commanding 33-0 lead.
Abby Dow scored England’s first try and although Helena Rowland missed the conversion, she made no mistake when captain Marlie Packer and Alex Matthews powered over.
France were also temporarily down to 14 players when Jessy Tremouliere was sent to the sin bin, which also welcomed Rose Bernadou later in the half, helping England to score from a penalty try before Zoe Aldcroft also went over.
But England took their foot off the gas in the second half and France got on the board when Emilie Boulard scored the opening try before Gabrielle Vernier went through the English defence for a second.
Both teams then scored from rolling mauls to make it 38-21 to England with 65 minutes on the clock.
With five minutes left, France rallied with two more tries from Emeline Gros and Cyrielle Banet, but Tremouliere missed the first conversion as England held on for another Grand Slam.