- Early Foden try not enough to beat RBS 6 Nations champions
- England dominate possession as France edge out visitors
France 12-10 England
A vivid try from Ben Foden on his first Test start launched a highly committed and invigorating performance that forced France, Grand Slam title winners for the ninth time, into the shadows at the Stade de France.
The Tricolours had already been confirmed earlier in the afternoon as RBS 6 Nations champions when Ireland lost to Scotland. They still needed to hang on for a rain-swept victory despite being kept scoreless for the final 46 minutes of a compelling contest in which England ran in the game’s only try after five minutes.
It stemmed from quick ball that enabled Tony Flood to link with Riki Flutey and Chris Ashton, the newcomer from Northampton, who sent club mate Foden on an arrow-straight 25-metre run to the corner in an electric atmosphere. Flood’s touchline conversion matched the perfection of the try.
The scores usurped a dropped goal from François Trinh-Duc only a minute earlier but England were penalised in the scrums and around the breakdown helping France to a 12-7 lead at half time. Morgan Parra landed three of four penalty attempts, two following scrummaging offences in a 16-minute spell after which England replaced Dylan Hartley and Dan Cole, their hooker and tight head prop at half time.
By then the penalty count had gone against England by 8-2. Lewis Moody, captaining the side for the first time on his 61st appearance, said afterwards: “It cost us. Losing was frustrating but I was so proud of the side.”
Photo: Getty Images
France were cautious in their approach compared with England, who had a 64% territorial advantage after half time, along with more scoring opportunities.
Mike Tindall, back after four months on the sidelines through a hamstring injury, had been outstanding with driving runs through the middle and subtle distribution, once slipping a pass to Ashton, who kicked ahead and was narrowly beaten to a rolling ball over the French line. Mark Cueto also played his part as did Danny Care and Flood in an exhilarating display from the backs.
Tom Palmer impressed in his first Test for two years after becoming an early replacement off the bench for the injured Simon Shaw, while Louis Deacon fitted in alongside him in the absence of Steve Borthwick.
England used all their replacements except Ben Youngs with Jonny Wilkinson landing an impeccable 50-metre penalty from a wide angle that made the score 12-10 with 13 minutes remaining. It set up a thrilling finale but France prevailed in a Parisien party atmosphere.
1 Tim Payne (London Wasps), 2 Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), 3 Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), 4 Simon Shaw (London Wasps), 5 Louis Deacon (Leicester Tigers), 6 Joe Worsley (London Wasps), 7 Lewis Moody (Leicester Tigers) Captain, 8 Nick Easter (Harlequins), 9 Danny Care (Harlequins), 10 Toby Flood (Leicester Tigers), 11 Chris Ashton (Northampton Saints), 12 Riki Flutey (CA Brive), 13 Mike Tindall (Gloucester Rugby), 14 Mark Cueto (Sale Sharks), 15 Ben Foden (Northampton Saints), 16 Steve Thompson (CA Brive), 17 David Wilson (Bath Rugby), 18 Tom Palmer (Stade Français), 19 James Haskell (Stade Français), 20 Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers), 21 Jonny Wilkinson (RC Toulon), 22 Mathew Tait (Sale Sharks)
Replacements: Shaw off for Palmer (17), Cole off for Wilson (41), Hartley off for Thompson (41), Tindall off for Tait (54), Flutey off for Wilkinson (61), Worsley off for Haskell (68), Payne off for Cole (68)
Penalty Goal: Wilkinson
1 Thomas Domingo (Clermont Auvergne), 2 William Servat (Toulouse) 3 Nicolas Mas (Perpignan), 4 Lionel Nallet (Racing Métro 92), 5 Julien Pierre (Clermont Auvergne), 6 Thierry Dusautoir (Toulouse) Captain, 7 Julien Bonnaire (Clermont Auvergne), 8 Imanol Harinordoquy (Biarritz), 9 Morgan Parra (Clermont Auvergne), 10 François Trinh-Duc (Montpellier), 11 Alexis Palisson (CA Brive), 12 Yannick Jauzion (Toulouse), 13 Mathieu Bastareaud (Stade Français), 14 Marc Andreu (Castres) (Scarlets), 15 Clément Poitrenaud (Toulouse), 16 Dimitri Szarzewski (Stade Français), 17 Jean-Baptiste Poux (Toulouse), 18 Sébastien Chabal (Racing Métro 92), 19 Alexandre Lapandry (Clermont Auvergne), 20 Dimitri Yachvili (Biarritz), 21 David Marty (Perpignan), 22 Julien Malzieu (Clermont Auvergne)
Replacements: Bastareaud off for Marty (50), Servat off for Szarzewski (53), Domingo off for Poux (54), Pierre off for Chabal (59), Harinordoquy off for Lapandry (60), Andreu off for Malzieu (73)
Penalty Goals: Parra (3)
Dropped Goal: Trinh-Duc
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (NZRU)
Assistant Referees: Alain Rolland (IRU), Simon McDowell (IRU)