England took on France for a place in the Rugby World Cup 2017 final in Belfast — but it was a Cardiff-born Welsh speaker who proved the match-winner.
Defending champions England had racked up 159 points in beating Spain, Italy and the USA to top Pool B and set up a semi-final against their old rivals.
France had also won three from three in the pool stage, reaching the last four with impressive victories against Japan, Australia and hosts Ireland.
France pay penalty
But points, if not action, dried up during a cagey and wet first half at Kingspan Stadium. England, led onto the pitch by Marlie Packer on the occasion of her 50th cap, took the lead through a 17th-minute Emily Scarratt penalty.
France hit back before the break, however, as Shannon Izar converted a long-range penalty. Parity was the least the French deserved going into the second half, but having weathered the blue storm England began to take control in Belfast.
Scarratt added a second penalty to edge England back in front before Player of the Match Sarah Bern powered over to score an all-important try in the 61st minute.
Despite trailing by 10 points, France refused to give in and thought they had scored a try of their own seven minutes later as Julie Annery dove into the right corner.
Jones rescues England
However, the TMO showed that replacement Megan Jones had produced a brilliant try-saving tackle to pull Annery into touch before the back-row had grounded the ball.
England were able to see time out in the French half and following a botched defensive scrum, Cardiff-born Jones dotted down the loose ball to put a gloss on the Red Roses’ win.
“It’s fantastic that we’ve come and done the job that we wanted to do,” England captain Sarah Hunter said.
“They’ve given us the biggest test that we’ve had here in the World Cup but there’s one thing we knew, we had the right mindset and we fought for every inch of that win.”
England would be denied a third title by New Zealand in the final but some consolation for both sides came in the nominations for World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of the Year. Romane Menager, Safi N’Diaye and Lydia Thompson were named alongside Kelly Brazier and eventual winner Portia Woodman.
Re-live the nerve-jangling semi-final on Saturday courtesy of our live stream service, which will broadcast the entire match, at 19:00 BST, via the official Rugby World Cup Facebook page and World Rugby’s YouTube channel.