- England Under 20 suffer Six Nations defeat
- We’re absolutely gutted – Walker
France Under 20 12 England Under 20 8
A second half David Sisi try wasn’t enough to save England Under 20’s unbeaten Six Nations record as Rob Hunter’s side fell to a 12-8 defeat against France in Vannes.
A Ryan Mills penalty had given England a third minute lead, but four penalties from Perpignan No. 9 Tom Ecochard ultimately proved the difference.
England do still have the Six Nations championship title in their own hands as a win against Ireland at Adams Park next Friday would retain the trophy.
In front of a packed Stade de la Rabine, England started brightly and put the first points on the board through Mills, but France hit back with a penalty of their own four minutes later.
Mills then saw a kickable penalty sail wide with 15 minutes played and French No. 10 Enzo Selponi missed a drop goal attempt five minutes later, but Ecochard put France in front for the first time with his second penalty after 22 minutes.
Photo: Getty Images
The French stepped up their game in the latter stages of the first half and England were let off the hook when a loose Charlie Walker pass was intercepted by French wing Yohann Artu, but a frantic chase back from Walker and Marland Yarde forced France into the knock on.
The French pack enjoyed the upper hand in the scrum as England remained camped inside their own 22 for the rest of the half. The Television Match Official twice said ‘no try’ after France managed to burrow over and the half time whistle blew with England still in the game three points down.
The second half started as the first ended, England were put on the back foot for the opening stages and only a wayward penalty kick from Ecochard prevented France from extending their lead.
We can be proud of the guys – Hunter
England began to enjoy some possession as the half progressed and made the breakthrough with ten minutes left, a driving line-out was eventually touched down by Sisi – making his first Under 20 appearance – but Mills missed the tricky conversion from out wide.
France hit back instantly and two penalties from Ecochard gave his side the lead and they held out to condemn England to their first Six Nations loss in nine games.
Head Coach Hunter said: “We can be proud of the guys – we did well to stay in the game, we were under pressure for long periods but we stuck in there and defended very well.
“The lads are hurting at the moment but I hope that this loss stands the guys in good stead. It’s great to keep winning, of course it is, but even if we had won this game the lessons learnt would have remained the same. We need to regroup, review this loss and move on to Ireland next week.”
Captain Chris Walker added: “We’re absolutely gutted, there was a lot of emotion at the end of the game and we’re really disappointed about the loss. We play the game to win and ultimately we weren’t able to do that against a good, strong French side. They dominated the set-piece and that cost us, but we’ve got a massive game against Ireland to look forward to – we’re disappointed, but this will make us stronger.”
Points: Mills 1P; Sisi 1T.
England Under 20 team against France
15) Ben Ransom (Saracens)
14) Anthony Watson (London Irish)
13) Charlie Walker (Harlequins)
12) Sam Hill (Exeter Chiefs)
11) Marland Yarde (London Irish)
10) Ryan Mills (Gloucester Rugby)
9) Dan Robson (Gloucester Rugby)
1) Luke Cowan Dickie (Exeter Chiefs)
2) Koree Britton (Gloucester Rugby)
3) Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins)
4) Tom Price (Leicester Tigers)
5) Dom Barrow (Leeds Carnegie)
6) Matt Kvesic (Worcester)
7) Chris Walker (Leeds Carnegie) (C)
8) Jack Clifford (Harlequins)
16) Nathan Morris (London Wasps) on for Koree Britton 66 mins
17) Alec Hepburn (London Wasps) on for Luke Cowan Dickie 66 mins
18) Ross Harrison (Sale Sharks) on for Kyle Sinckler 51 mins
19) David Sisi (London Irish) on for Chris Walker 58 mins
20) Will Skuse (Bath Rugby)
21) Ben Spencer (Saracens) on for Dan Robson 62 mins
22) Tommy Bell (Sale Sharks)
23) Will Addison (Sale Sharks) on for Anthony Watson 53 mins