Six Nations: England stay on course for grand slam with win over France at Twickenham
England maintained their 100 per cent record in the Six Nations with a 23-13 victory over France at Twickenham.
By Graeme Mair
Last Updated: 24/02/13 1:50pm
Manu Tuilagi's try and six penalties - four from Owen Farrell and two to clinch the result by his replacement Toby Flood late on - was enough to move England two points clear at the top of the standings and send France to a third defeat in this year's competition.
It was a hard-fought contest and France - who had lost to Italy and Wales in their opening two matches - produced a much-improved display, including a solo try from Wesley Fofana.
But Farrell's efficiency with the boot ensured England were able to stay in touch during the first half and Stuart Lancaster's men took charge after the break to move within two wins of a first grand slam since 2003.
Farrell and Morgan Parra exchanged penalties during the first six minutes as both packs tore into each other with obvious relish.
With Parra controlling things from scrum-half, France immediately looked a better organised unit than in previous rounds and their aggression at the breakdown ensured England were denied quick ball.
England's best try-scoring chance of the first half came in the 26th minute when Farrell overhit his chip towards Chris Ashton on the right wing, albeit safe in the knowledge an advantage was being played for an earlier penalty.
Farrell duly added those three points but France responded immediately with the opening try, Fofana - from inside his own half - evading several potential tacklers with some delightful footwork and handing off Ben Youngs to go over in the corner.
Parra added the conversion before Farrell reduced England's deficit to 10-9 on 33 minutes with his third penalty.
France had the chance to pad their advantage but Parra scuffed penalty kicks wide either side of half-time.
England went back in front when Thierry Dusautoir pulled down a rolling maul and Farrell landed his fourth successful kick, quickly followed by Tuilagi's try.
A loose ball was hacked out of a French ruck and dropped straight to the recalled Leicester centre, who was able to cruise over in the left corner.
Farrell failed with the conversion attempt, then appeared to hurt his groin while sending up a high kick. He limped on, missing a penalty before making way for Flood.
Parra handed over kicking duties to Frederic Michalak, on for Francois Trinh-Duc at stand-off, and he was on target with a penalty in the 58th-minute to trim England's lead to 17-13.
But France, despite - or perhaps because of - a raft of replacements, were fading fast and Flood was able to add a couple of late penalties to seal England's victory.