England ended France’s Six Nations title hopes with a thrilling 24-22 win in Paris.
The last time these two teams met, in the World Cup quarter-final in Auckland, France raced out to a 16-0 lead that their opponents were never able to overturn. At the Stade de France on Sunday, it was England who took charge early on, scoring two tries for a 14-3 lead after 17 minutes.
The first was a result of a big hit from winger Chris Ashton on hooker Dimitri Szarzewski, whose poor pass in contact was picked up by Owen Farrell. The England flyhalf found scrumhalf Lee Dickson who sent the ball wide to Manu Tuilagi on the right touchline and the midfielder had enough pace to beat the cover defence.
France flyhalf Lionel Beauxis got his side on the board soon after, but England struck again from the restart when scrumhalf Julien Dupuy’s clearance kick was collected by Ben Morgan near the halfway line. The England No 8 shrugged off two tackles during his storming run before putting fullback Ben Foden away for the try.
Farrell again kicked the conversion, but missed a penalty a few minutes later. Dupuy and Beauxis then took advantage of some English indiscipline late in the half to reduce the deficit to five.
England made a good start to the second half when Farrell slotted another three points, but were reduced to 14 men two minutes later after referee Alain Rolland showed winger Charlie Sharples a yellow card for a deliberate knock-down.
While the hosts failed to take advantage of their numerical superiority, two penalties, from replacement scrumhalf Morgan Parra and Beauxis, made it 17-15 with 10 minutes to go.
England responded with a converted try from flanker Tom Craft, who took the ball 25m out and sliced through a gap which was there because centre Aurélien Rougerie had shot out of the defensive line.
France, though, hit back when No 12 Wesley Fofana scored his fourth try in four matches and Parra nailed the touchline conversion.
Les Bleus surged back into opposition territory from the restart and patiently got replacement flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc into position for a drop goal from 35m out. But his kick fell short and England hung on for a famous win.
By Simon Borchardt