March 12, 2012
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England win thriller against French

England stunned hosts France with a thrilling 24-22 victory on Sunday to erase any hopes the French had of winning the Six Nations title.

The visitors outscored the French by three tries to one as they became the first team to win at the Stade de France in the Six Nations since their compatriots prevailed in 2008.

"Fantastic achievement to come here with a side so young and inexperienced. I don't think France had lost here for 10 games and we have won," said England coach Stuart Lancaster.

"Credit to the French - they came back at us - but I thought we deserved it."

England had an early chance to go over but they fell short when South African-born lock Mouritz Botha knocked on and France cleared.

The hosts too had an early chance to break the deadlock but Lionel Beauxis, starting for the first time since 2009, saw his drop goal effort fall woefully short of the target.

His half-back partner Julien Dupuy had another chance to put them ahead in the eighth minute after England were penalised but the Stade Francais scrum-half's penalty drifted wide of the post.

However this French dominance came to nothing as a loose pass by Dimitry Szarzewski was picked up by Manu Tuilagi, who sped down the left and outpaced Aurelien Rougerie to touch down in the corner for his fifth try.

Owen Farrell converted brilliantly from the touchline to make it 7-0.

Beauxis got France on the board with a penalty in the 17th minute but the hosts were barely able to enjoy that when they conceded another try.

A brilliant run by England No8 Ben Morgan carved open the French defence and a superb off-load with the back of his hand to Ben Foden saw the fullback tackled by Vincent Clerc but his momentum carried him over the line - Farrell converted for 14-3.

France were all at sea especially Beauxis and fortunate not to go further behind when the previously foot-perfect Farrell saw a penalty from in front of the posts cannon back off one of them.

The hosts reduced the deficit with a Dupuy penalty just after the half-hour mark as Foden was penalised for not calling for a mark inside his 22 when tackled by Rougerie and then failing to release the ball.

However, the French were hit by a further blow in the 37th minute as Clerc had to go off with his lower left arm strapped and was replaced by Maxime Mermoz.

Despite the apparent superiority of the English it was France who went off for half-time boosted by Beauxis landing a long range penalty to leave them only five points adrift at 9-14.

Farrell made it 17-9 in the 50th minute for a deliberate knock-on and at that point coach Philippe Saint-Andre decided it was time to make sweeping changes sending on three replacements, including Morgan Parra for the struggling Dupuy.

Referee Alain Rolland was not so lenient when England were penalised for a deliberate knock on as he sin-binned Charlie Sharples, who had only come in for his first start on Saturday when David Strettle failed to recover from a chest injury.

Even with the one man advantage the French were unable to make any inroads into the England lead, though, just after Sharples returned, Parra converted a penalty to make it 17-12.

English nerves frayed further when Beauxis landed a long range penalty from just inside England territory to leave the hosts just two points adrift with near on 10 minutes remaining.

However, they hit back in style with their third try as Tom Croft sent Rougerie the wrong way and broke one tackle to touch down - Farrell converted to make it 24-15.

"I saw Rougerie go and thought I would have a go myself and luckily it came off," said Croft. "We have come on in leaps and bounds."

Finally France crossed the tryline to make it a tension-filled last five minutes as Wesley Fofana went over in the corner for his fourth try in as many matches after being fed by Parra, who then converted from the touchline.

The French went roaring back into the English half spearheaded by Rougerie but replacement Francois Trinh-Duc's effort at a drop goal fell short and England had held on by the skin of their teeth.

AFP

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