Great Britain .......... 8pts France ................ 14pts
Dr Johnson, who thought it sufficient for a dog to walk on its hind legs or a woman to preach, never mind whether it was done well, should have been at the Athletic Ground, Richmond, yesterday. There, women not only played their first rugby international in this country but played with a fervour and commitment that echoed many of the battles between these rugby-playing nations.
The principal difference was that they kicked many fewer penalties and, recognising their limitations in this respect, ran and passed much more often than do their male counterparts.
Indeed, the game started with Britain's scrum-half fielding the French kick-off and releasing her centres at the opposition; and then, at the breakdown, the French getting the ball to their left wing. It was a cracking start.
Initially, the French scrum was disconcertingly superior and the British women, pushed off the ball for the second successive time, had to yield a try.
For a time, the pattern of play held echoes of Twickenham and the Parc des Princes: the French overpowering the opposition up front and their backs looking adroit and pacy; the English forwards occasionally surging back at them with sheer cussedness - and winning penalties for French infringements and backchat.
But the home side also managed to get back on terms at the scrummage - a monumental achievement in itself. They did it, explained their captain later, by making sure they got themselves well set before the sides engaged.
Karen Almond of Wasps was Britain's most powerful and effective player. She came scything through on to a break by scrum-half Hill (another outstanding player who always made the ball available) and from five yards out had too much momentum to be halted. Then, on the outside of a blind-side move, she swept around the French flank for a second try and an 8-4 lead.
If the first half was splendid, with Britain apparently forging ahead, the second was somewhat anticlimactic. Eventually the French ended the stalemate when their left winger rounded the defence and, with all the players tired, there was no coming back for the British. Increasingly there were errors, and the referee picked up all of them.
Indeed, if anything came badly out of the game it was the laws, now seen in all their overkill glory, as innocent mistakes produced a stream of penalties.
The British women were able to react to the final whistle with elation, however, as they hugged each other. They had done well, and so had women's rugby.
GREAT BRITAIN: V Moore (Wasps); P Atkinson (Loughborough University), S Robson (Loughborough), A Benett (Loughborough), D McLaren (Finchley); K Almond (Wasps), S Hill (Wasps); J Talbot (Swansea University), K Lee (Loughborough), J Watts (Finchley); T Durkin (Bromley). T Moore (Finchley); J Gedrych (Finchley), C Isherwood (Leeds University, capt). L Burgess (Loughborough).
Tries: Almond (2).
France: C Fenoll (Tulle); F Saudin (Le Creusot), M Fraysse (Toulouse, capt), S Rival (La Teste), A Fenoll (Tulle); A Hayraud (Romagnat), M Gracieux (La Teste); V Champeil (Tulle), M Lugrand (La Teste), S Girard (Bourg); P Merlin (Le Creusot), C Henry (Bourg); N Amiel (Narbonne), B Pagegie (Tulle), C Marbleu (La Teste).
Tries: Gracieux, A Fenoll. Pagegie; Conversion: Hayraud.
Referee: C Leek (East Midlands). Copyright (C) The Sunday Times, 1986
"Rugby: French women have it." Sunday Times [London, England] 20 Apr. 1986.
Sunday, 20 April 1986
Saturday, 19 April 1986
Today Great Britain play their first women's rugby international against the ferocious femmes of France. Despite the intimidating thought of playing such names as Marie-Paule Gracieux and Christelle Henry, the British are in bullish mood for their match, which will be at Richmond Athletic Ground at noon. 'The bad weather could help us', said Tricia Moore, a dashing forward from Finchley. 'Frenchmen hate soggy pitches, and I hear the women are the same. ' Copyright (C) The Times, 1986
"Sports Diary: Hit and miss." Times [London, England] 19 Apr. 1986. InfoTrac Custom Newspapers. Web. 24 Dec. 2009.
Sunday, 5 January 1986
A first-ever women's international between England and France will be played at the Richmond ground on April 19, despite the loss of a pounds 12,000 sponsorship deal which the newly-formed Women's Rugby Union thought was all wrapped up.
The wine company Piat d'Or had approached the women's union, and a season's programme had been agreed, culminating in the France international, before Piats parent company cried off - the reason being that it had been unable to arrange a parallel deal with men's rugby.
For the women, who feel they were 'left in the lurch', it was a dismal reminder of their dependence on men's rugby. But they will stage the international anyway, even if the visitors have to pay their own fares.
"Rugby Round-Up." Sunday Times [London, England] 5 Jan. 1986. InfoTrac Custom Newspapers. Web. 24 Dec. 2009.