France 15 – 17 England
England edged France for the second time in the space of the week after a floodlight failure at the Stade Lille-Metropole spontaneously brought an intense game to a bizarre end.
Both teams were ordered back to their changing rooms after 62 minutes and the game was later abandoned, with concerns over injuries should the match be resumed.
The result – which will go down as an official win due to the fact that more than 60 minutes of the match were completed – meant England preserved their No1 world ranking and extended their winning streak over the French to nine matches.
France will arguably feel more aggrieved by the premature end, which will ultimately raise questions over the amateurism that is still very much apparent in women’s Test rugby.
Despite likening the episode to “when the lights go out at training” Sarah Hunter, the England captain, refused to be drawn on whether such a scenario would have happened in a men’s international.
“We’re not privy to the reason why the lights weren’t on,” said Hunter. “It’s something that we can’t compare to the men. The men could have been playing here and the same thing could have happened, so I’m not sure it’s a comparison to make.”
Simon Middleton, the England head coach, was equally as baffled by the blackout. “Just when you think the year can’t get any more bizarre, it gets totally bizarre,” he said. “We had 80 percent territory in that second half, so there’s nothing to suggest the outcome would have been any different.”
Despite finding themselves a woman down after Zoe Harrison’s sin-binning – which led to Jessy Tremoulliere darting over – England led 14-12 at the break in a first half that turned into The Abby Dow Show.
The Wasps winger, whose father Paul tragically passed away in March this year, was England’s salvation in the first half.
She wheeled down her flank to leave 2018 World Player of the Year Tremoulliere for dead for her first score. Her second was even more sublime, gathering the ball on the half way line and snake-hipping her way through a sea of blue shirts as the mechanical engineering graduate engineered her own bit of magic.
Middleton openly compared the 23-year-old to Portia Woodman, New Zealand’s star World Cup-winning winger and one of the best players to grace the female game.
“She’s been absolutely unbelievable,” Hunter said of Dow. “You would never have known the difficult situation she’s been in. She’s shown the true characteristics of what it means to be a Red Rose both on and off the field over this last campaign.”
Tempers briefly flared when Julie Annery was shown yellow for cynically kicking Poppy Cleall in the head while the Women’s Six Nations Player of the Championship lay on the floor.
Annery was lucky to stay on the field, although her action was mitigated somewhat by the fact that Cleall appeared to be holding on to her other leg.
England began stringing the phases together after that, but any momentum they built was snuffed out when the lights unexpectedly brought the curtain down on the last tussle between these titans of the women’s game that we are likely to see for some time.