France finished their Rugby World Cup 2021 campaign with a flourish by running in five tries in a 36-0 win over Canada in the Bronze Final, producing a dominant display of attacking vivacity and defensive resilience.
It is the sixth time Les Bleues have claimed bronze at the tournament and the third time they have defeated Canada in this fixture, having previously done so in 2002 and 2006.
Tries from Madoussou Fall, player of the match Pauline Bourdon and Marine Menager, supplemented by the boot of Caroline Drouin, put France 22-0 up at the break.
The French dominance continued in the second half as prop Annaelle Deshaye crossed early before Menager dotted down France’s fifth to seal a resounding victory in which Drouin kicked 11 points.
It was France’s first win over Canada since 2013, ending a four-match losing run, while it marked the sixth time they have taken bronze - their joint-best ever finish.
Les Bleues’ victory will also see them leapfrog Canada in the World Rugby Women’s Rankings powered by Capgemini to number three.
After the heartbreak of missing a last-gasp penalty to lose to hosts New Zealand by a single point in the semi-final, France responded with a masterful display against a Canadian side that pushed England all the way a week earlier.
FRANCE START FAST
After a scrappy but competitive start featuring handling errors from both sides, France started to win the territory battle thanks to an effective kicking game that ultimately led to the opening score.
A 50-22 from Emilie Boulard gave Les Bleues an attacking platform in the Canadian 22 and they pounced, making metres from a maul off the lineout before battering away at the Canada defence, with the towering figure of Fall eventually powering over the line.
Drouin added the extras and then extended France’s lead to 10 points from the tee after Canada were pinged for offside, while a solid French defence continued their record of not conceding a point in the first 20 minutes of any game at RWC 2021.
Canada got their first sniff after winning a scrum penalty on halfway and kicking to just outside the French 22.
A rolling maul from the lineout took them inside the 22-metre line, but more ferocious French defending kept them at bay until Deshaye won a crucial turnover at the breakdown.
That allowed France to clear their lines, while a second penalty then gave them field position that led to their second try.
Lively inside centre Gabrielle Vernier was to thank for creating the score as she stepped Alex Tessier in midfield and offloaded to send Bourdon under the posts, with Drouin again adding the extras.
France topped off a superb first half performance with a third score with the clock in the red, as Bourdon and Drouin combined from the back of the scrum before the fly-half offloaded from the tackle to Menager, who dived over in the corner.
Drouin was narrowly off target with a tricky conversion, but it was a happy French side heading into the sheds at half time with a 22-0 lead.
MENAGER STRIKES AGAIN
France were immediately back on the front foot after the break as Drouin kicked to the corner to put her side five metres out.
The lineout was gathered and a maul brought down illegally, but advantage was played and Deshaye burst out from a ruck to score from short-range and Drouin’s conversion extended France’s lead to 29 points.
Determined to get off the mark, Canada’s efforts in attack were repeatedly repelled by a combination of resolute French defending and handling errors from the women in red, despite the Canadians boasting 72 per cent territory early in the second half.
France soon struck again, building phases and battering the Canadian line to create an overlap out wide, and Menager nipped over in the corner to dot down her second of the day.
Drouin’s successful conversion took the fly-half’s personal tally into double figures on 11 points, but it was her livewire half-back partner Bourdon who was named Player of the Match after an electric attacking display.
Vernier was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle with 14 minutes remaining, but even a depleted France side refused to yield any points, restricting their opponents to just one clean break in the match.