Lydia Thompson’s try in the dying minutes saw England come from behind to beat France 29-25 in Rovereto, Italy, on Saturday to add the Women’s European Cup to their Women’s Six Nations Grand Slam success earlier in the year.
England had trailed 25-17 with time running out but Sally Tuson’s try reduced the deficit and then some great footwork by Thompson saw the wing race 60 metres to score the match-winning try and deny France the title.
“This has been a tour of opportunity for all the players involved and I can safely say every single players involved has taken this opportunity with both hands,” said Graham Smith, England’s head coach for the tournament.
“This was a scintillating game, but as a coach a hard game to watch. We certainly controlled the first half but after the restart it was a different matter and France took control when we couldn’t get our consistency going and we did not defend as well.
“We are obviously delighted to have won the European Cup and defended our title but I am more delighted about the fact that we have underlined what talent we have coming thoruhg our system.”
The match was a winner takes all affair with England and France both having beaten hosts Italy and Spain in the top division played over seven days in northern Italy.
Italy bounced back from these disappointments to overpower Spain 54-3 to finish third, full back Manuela Furlan proving the hero for the home side after scoring four of their nine tries at the Stadio Quercia. Marta Ferrari (2), Ilaria Arrighetti, Anna Barbanti and Cecilia Zublena also touched down for Italy.
Sweden triumph in Division B
The elite tier of the Women’s European Cup took place only days after Sweden, Netherlands, Finland and Russia contested Division B with the host nation just edging past their Dutch rivals 10-3 in the final to claim the title in Enkoping.
This tournament was about more than just silverware, though, with the two finalists earning a place in a Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014 qualifying tournament next year alongside the two non qualifiers from the Six Nations, Spain and an Oceania representative.
Sweden and the Netherlands were favourites to claim these places and did not disappoint on day one. The Netherlands overwhelmed Finland 105-0 with wing Fenna Stomps helping herself to five tries, while Sweden brushed aside Russia 67-0.
Tries from Ninni Johansson-Giebat and Amanda Sandsborg saw Sweden to victory and kept alive hopes of qualifying for a second successive Women’s Rugby World Cup, having ended a 12-year absence by playing in 2010 and finishing 12th.
Russia bounced back from the disappointment of that heavy loss to Sweden by beating Finland 45-17 in the third place play-off, wing Zhanna Matveeva stealing the show with a five-try haul in the victory.
Japan beat Hong Kong
It is not only in Europe where the women's teams have been in action this month with Japan running out 61-15 winners over Hong Kong in a curtain raiser to the men's HSBC Asian 5 Nations encounter between the two rivals at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo on Saturday.
Japan wing Chikami Inoue scored four tries in the vicotry with flanker Chisato Yoko and replacement Keiko Kato both adding a brace. Other Japan try scorers were winger Tomoe Shinomiya, hooker and captain Misaki Suzuki and Chiharu Nakamura. Hong Kong scored three tries of their own, through second row Samantha Scott, wing Natasha Olson-Thorne and centre Cheng Tsz Ting.