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France beat England to seal Grand Slam in style

France beat England to seal Grand Slam in style

RUGBY: France won their first Six Nations title since 2010 by defeating England 25-13 in an impressive all-round display at the Stade de France yesterday (Mar 19).


Sunday 20 March 2022, 12:45PM

Captain Antoine Dupont (centre) led France to their first Six Nations title since 2010. Photo: AFP

Captain Antoine Dupont (centre) led France to their first Six Nations title since 2010. Photo: AFP

Victory also gave Les Bleus their first Grand Slam in 12 years and underlined their status as one of the favourites to win next year’s World Cup on home soil.

France led 18-6 at half-time after a dominant opening 40 minutes that featured tries from outside centre Gael Fickou and blindside flanker Francois Cros.

England hit back early in the second half thanks to Freddie Steward’s converted try before France captain Antoine Dupont’s superb score in the 61st minute took his side to the brink of glory.

France team manager Raphael Ibanez, twice a Grand Slam winner as a player in 1998 and 2002, told ITV Sport: “Fair play to England. They tried to break our defence, but I think our spirit and tactics won us the game.”

As a crowd of nearly 80,000 celebrated, with the Stade transformed into a disco as music blared out over the public address system, the former France captain added: “I would recommend our players to keep their feet on the ground. This is a major step for this team tonight, and there is more to come.”

Defeat for a gutsy but outclassed England, who were without several first-choice players through injury, meant that for the third time in five years they had lost three matches in a single Six Nations.

“We are pretty disappointed, to be honest,” said England captain Courtney Lawes.

“We felt like they (France) were getting tired, and we just failed to capitalise, essentially.”

England arrived in Paris following a record 32-15 home defeat by Ireland - a match they played mainly with 14 men after lock Charlie Ewels was sent off after just 82 seconds.

Eddie Jones rang the changes, the England coach calling up full-back George Furbank, veteran scrum-half Ben Youngs, flanker Sam Underhill, lock Nick Isiekwe and prop Will Stuart.

France a settled side

France, by contrast, were a far more settled side with the return of Damian Penaud from a bout of coronavirus the only change to the starting XV that saw off Wales 13-9 in Cardiff last weekend.

Les Bleus went ahead in the eighth minute when powerhouse prop Uini Atonio won a scrum penalty, with full-back Melvyn Jaminet on target from 38 metres.

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And seven minutes later they scored the game’s first try.

England snuffed out the threat of left wing Gabin Villiere’s break but that left them short of defenders on the opposite side.

France worked the ball quickly across field and although fly-half Romain Ntamack’s long cut out pass bounced in front of Fickou, the midfielder gathered the ball safely and went in at the right corner.

England stayed in touch through two penalties from fly-half Marcus Smith, with France now 11-6 ahead.

Meanwhile a France defence organised by specialist coach Shaun Edwards held firm and Les Bleus cashed in with a try on the stroke of half-time.

England prop Ellis Genge produced a superb try-saving tackle on Ntamack but blindside flanker Cros still forced his way over.

Jaminet landed the tough conversion and France led by 12 points at the break.

England hit back with a sweeping move as Steward, their new right wing, crossed for a try, which with Smith’s conversion, reduced France’s lead to 18-13.

A revitalised England launched wave after wave of attacks before the outstanding Fickou won a key turnover penalty to relieve the mounting pressure.

The match was still in the balance when Dupont struck.

The reigning world player of the year had had a relatively quiet game but seized his moment to crown a slick move featuring forwards and backs.

France lock Cameron Woki surged into England’s 22 before Penaud cut in from the wing. No 8 Gregory Alldritt kept the move going and his pass found Dupont.

Taking the ball at pace, the diminutive scrum-half brushed off England hooker Jamie George’s tackle before scoring a try which, with Jaminet’s conversion, put France a decisive two scores in front.

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