England: 12
France: 30

  • Rob Hawkins (5),
  • Joe Coyd (39),
  • Lewis King (43),
  • Nathan Collins (54),
  • Tom Halliwell (61),
  • Lewis King (66)
  • Jeremy Bourson (14),
  • Jeremy Bourson (23),
  • Damien Dore (28),
  • Lionel Alazard (32),
  • Yann Verdi (48),
  • Jeremy Bourson (59)

  • Joe Coyd (1/1),
  • Nathan Collins (4/5)
  • Lionel Alazard (8/8),
  • Yann Verdi (1/2)

Drop goals
  • Florian Guttadoro

  • Tom Halliwell,
  • Rob Hawkins,
  • Joe Coyd,
  • Seb Bechara,
  • Lewis King,
  • Nathan Collins,
  • Jack Brown,
  • Josh Butler
  • Lionel Alazard,
  • Jeremy Bourson,
  • Adrien Zittel,
  • Damien Dore,
  • Florian Gattadoro,
  • Arno Vargas,
  • Yann Verdi,
  • Julien Penella

Match report

By Stuart Cooke

For the first time since a thrilling World Cup Final in 2022, England and France came together for the first of a two game series, with this game being hosted at the First Direct Arena in Leeds, before the second is played in Marseille at the end of November.

After a tense opening period, England struck first when Rob Hawkins scored in the left corner to finish off a slick handling move. Adding the extras from the kicking tee was Joe Coyd for an early 6-0 lead.

When France were on the attack, their ability to evade being tagged allowed them to catch England out in defence. A penalty for holding back was dispatched by Lionel Alazard to get his side on the scoreboard.

Both sides continued to exchange sets, but it was a neat wraparound play by Jeremy Bourson that gave him an overlap down the right after a quick play the ball by Alazard that lead to their first try. The France number 1 was again successful from the tee to make the score 8-6 in favour of the visitors.

It was Alazard and Bourson who combined to extend the French lead, first Alazard with a penalty, before Bourson crossed again in the left corner after a reverse looping pass from Alazard. 

Another double score by France extended their lead, Damian Dore the beneficiary on the back of some excellent offload play by his teammates. The ability to release the ball after contact, without being tagged, is a real trademark of the French team. This was followed by a try from Alazard after a quick tap. With both kicks successful, it was now 28-6.

Poor discipline was costing England, not only were they giving France territory, but the opportunity to add two points with another penalty from right in front.

Despite being outplayed, the hosts weren’t finished yet, with Seb Bechara taking the ball to the line he was able to put Coyd through a gap to score. Having come off the bench during the first half, Nathan Collins was there to convert the try and reduce the deficit to 18 points on the hooter.

Looking to hit the ground running at the start of the second half, England were quick to add to their score, Lewis King touching down in the corner after an over the shoulder pass from Jack Brown, who had been sent out for the second 40 minutes. Brown was also there to supply Collins with his first of the afternoon soon after, but with these tries coming either side of a Yann Verdi try, the score was now 36-22.

Keeping the scoreboard ticking over, Florian Guttadoro added a drop goal, followed by Bourson with his best score of the game. Having been put through a gap, he used his speed to sprint away and complete his hat trick. In the absence of Alazard, Verdi now slotted over the conversion.

Making sure the game went down to the wire, England were still pushing to reduce the gap and make it a thrilling finale. Captain Tom Halliwell was first up to start the revival, before King made it a brace from a pass by Bechara. Collins was successful with both kicks to narrow the gap to just 9 points.

Other than a penalty miss for Verdi and a missed drop goal attempt by Adrien Zittel, the action was over and it was France who came out victorious, with the final score of 43-34. With a hat trick to his name, Jeremy Bourson was named as player of the match.