Six Nations - England beat France in Paris classic

Sun, 11 Mar 16:50:00 2012

England beat France 24-22 in a thrilling Six Nations classic at the Stade de France.

England's Croft celebrates with teammates after scoring try against France - 0

The visitors had raced into an early lead thanks to tries in the opening 20 minutes by Manu Tuilagi and Ben Foden.

But the French came back despite Tom Croft's late try as England indiscipline cost them penalty after penalty, and Wesley Fofana's try in the corner set up a thrilling final four minutes.

Yet when Francois Trinh-Duc's drop-goal attempt fell short with two minutes left it was effectively over, and England earned a third win away from home in this year's Six Nations.

The defeat ends France's hopes of winning the championship, as well as consigning them to a first defeat in 10 matches at the Stade de France.

England, meanwhile, will go home as heroes after the young side underlined its ambition with an outstanding performance.

The game got off to a stirring start as both sides played with pace and ambition from the off, with both having early chances and Julien Bonnaire coming within two metres of the line after 12 minutes.

England beat France 24-22 in a thrilling Six Nations classic at the Stade de France. - 2 Just moments later it was England who opened the scoring, however. France won a turnover on their own 10m line, but a terrible pass by France hooker Dimitri Szarzewski line saw Owen Farrell pounce on the ball and offload quickly to Lee Dickson, who unleashed Tuilagi from 40m out. The centre ran around three defenders before diving over Aurelien Rougerie's tackle to score in the corner.

Straight from the restart England were penalised for coming off their feet in a ruck, however, and Lionel Beauxis slotted home to make it 7-3 - yet France's celebrations were equally short-lived, as England then scored a stunning try immediately from the restart.

Ben Morgan picked up the ball from a ruck, broke Bonnaire's tackle and evaded four more men before offloading to Ben Foden to run in and score another try.

England were 14-3 ahead and flying, but Farrell hit the post with a penalty on the half-hour mark. France grabbed the ball and immediately started pushing upfield, leading to a deep kick which saw Foden call for a mark.

The full-back was tackled marginally late, however, enraging Chris Ashton who grabbed Rougerie, who was fully committed to the tackle and could hardly have pulled out. Referee Alain Rolland reversed Foden's mark, instead giving France a penalty to make it 14-6.

More ill discipline then saw England's lead slashed still further, when repeated warnings about going in off his feet were ignored by Dylan Hartley to gift Beauxis a shot at goal from 40m that he landed perfectly to cut the deficit to just five points.

Both teams closed up their defences as the second half got under way, but English indiscipline continued to cost the visitors - not least when Charlie Sharples was sin-binned harshly for a deliberate knock-on - as Beauxis and replacement scrum-half Parra kept the scoreboard ticking over.

France got within two points with Beauxis's effort from the touchline with 11 minutes left, but from the restart a magical piece of skill saw the superb Croft wrong-foot Rougerie as he broke through to score a third try for England.

With nine minutes left France came back, Fofana being stopped only by a brilliant Phil Dowson tackle on the line. From the resulting scrum, however, Fofana made no mistake as he dived in at the corner flag to score his fourth try in four matches for his country.

Parra landed a stunning conversion from the touchline to set up a thrilling last four minutes, and Les Bleus nearly stole it when Trinh-Duc's mis-hit drop goal dropped agonisingly under the bar.

England closed out the game to consign France to a first defeat in ten matches at the Stade de France, and keep alive their mathematical hopes of winning the Six Nations under temporary coach Stuart Lancaster - whose men have surely put him within touching distance of landing the job on a permanent basis.

England beat France 24-22 in a thrilling Six Nations classic at the Stade de France. - 3


Not already a Yahoo! user ? to get a free Yahoo! Account