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England end France’s Grand Slam dream with late Itoje try


Maro Itoje’s try four minutes from time saw England dash France’s hopes of a Grand Slam with a 23-20 victory in the Six Nations at Twickenham on Saturday.

AS IT HAPPENED | England v France

France were leading 20-16 but second row
Itoje’s score, awarded by the television match official (TMO) and then
converted by skipper Owen Farrell, extended their 16-year-wait for a win
over England at Twickenham.

Victory saw reigning champions England bounce back from their 40-24 defeat by Wales last time out.

It took France just two minutes to score the opening try of the match through star scrum-half Antoine Dupont.

England,
however, hit back through Anthony Watson’s try before two penalties
from captain Owen Farrell saw them into a 13-7 lead.

France
responded with a Matthieu Jalibert penalty before the flyhalf converted
Damian Penaud’s try to give Les Bleus a 17-13 lead at half-time.

Jalibert and Farrell exchanged penalties early in the second half before Itoje powered his way over late on.

Referee
Andrew Brace initially decided that Itoje had been held up by Teddy
Thomas and Cameron Woki but consulted TMO Joy Neville to make sure and
she ruled that the lock had grounded the ball.

It was a sweet moment for Itoje after he had given away several penalties against Wales.

“I just wish there were 82 000 fans here,” England coach Eddie Jones told ITV of a match played behind closed doors.

“We
thought France would come out hard early. They haven’t had a game for a
while and they were fresh. We had to be with them at half-time – that
was our big job.

“We thought we would get them in the second half and we did.”

‘Lost control’

France coach Fabien Galthie rued his side’s display after the break when England’s pack got on top.

“We
lost control of the match in the second half especially in the end
where they put pressure on us at the set-piece,” he told France 2.

France,
who’d already defeated Italy and Ireland, kicked off having had an
extended break after their third-round match against Scotland was
postponed because of a coronavirus outbreak in Les Bleus’ squad.

A
second-string France had pushed England all the way before losing the
Autumn Nations Cup final at Twickenham in December in sudden death extra
time.

But that still left France searching for their first win
over England since 2005 when Dimitri Yachvili kicked all of their points
in an 18-17 victory.

Reigning champions England had already seen
their hopes of a successful title defence ended by losses to Scotland
and Wales either side of a win over perennial strugglers Italy.

England
coach Eddie Jones benched senior players Elliot Daly and Jamie George,
with full-back Max Malins, given a full debut, and hooker Luke
Cowan-Dickie taking their places.

But it was not long before Malins was left stranded.

France
regained possession following an England box-kick and an eight-phase
move saw powerful centre Virimi Vakatawa break clear.

He in turn
found wing Teddy Thomas, who chipped over the head of Malins and Dupont,
underlining his reputation as a brilliant support player, beat the
England cover to the touch down.

Jalibert added a tricky conversion and France led 7-0.

England
equalised in the 10th minute when a break by centre Henry Slade created
an overlap out wide that allowed wing Watson to mark his 50th England
cap with a 22nd Red Rose try.

Farrell converted and his two
subsequent penalties, either side of a dynamic break by Watson that was a
sign of the team’s increased willingness to attack from deep, saw
England pull clear at 13-7.

Jalibert grounded a chip ahead on his
own leg but, with Brace having played an advantage, he kicked a simple
penalty in the 29th minute.

And three minutes later France were back in front.

From
a lineout, centre Gael Fickou sold a fine dummy before Jalibert’s
excellent lobbed miss-pass found wing Penaud in space for a try.

Jalibert
and Farrell both landed penalties to leave France 20-16 ahead going
into the final quarter before Itoje just did enough to pierce the French
defence.

Scorers:

England

Tries: Anthony Watson, Maro Itoje

Conversions: Owen Farrell (2)

Penalties: Farrell (3)

France

Tries: Antoine Dupont, Damian Penaud

Conversions: Mathieu Jalibert (2)

Penalties: Jalibert (2)

Teams:

England

15 Max Malins, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Owen Farrell (captain), 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Mark Wilson, 5 Charlie Ewels, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Mako Vunipola

Substitutes: 16 Jamie George, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Jonny Hill, 20 Ben Earl, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Ollie Lawrence, 23 Elliot Daly

France

15 Brice Dulin, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Gael Fickou, 11 Teddy Thomas, 10 Matthieu Jalibert, 9 Antoine Dupont, 8 Gregory Alldritt, 7 Charles Ollivon (captain), 6 Dylan Cretin, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Romain Taofifenua, 3 Mohamed Haouas, 2 Julian Marchand, 1 Cyril Baille

Substitutes: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Jean-Baptiste Gros, 18 Dorian Aldegheri, 19 Cyril Cazeau, 20 Cameron Woki, 21 Anthony Jelonch, 22 Baptiste Serin, 23 Romain Ntamack


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