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- RBS Six Nations
- 11th Mar 2012
- KO 15:00
- Ground: Stade de France, Paris
- Att: 80,895
England come of age
First win over France in Paris since 2008
England beat France 24-22 at the Stade de France, scoring three tries in a sparkling display that will have finally laid the World Cup ghosts to rest.
England's young side have been hinting at this sort of performance - and result - ever since Stuart Lancaster took over as interim coach and they delivered in the most hostile of arenas.
First-half tries from Manu Tuilagi and Ben Foden had put England 14-3 ahead but penalties kept France in the game.
Tom Croft's try nine minutes from time looked to have settled it, before Wesley Fofana's score four minutes later set up a frantic finish.
But England survived to claim a first win over France in Paris since 2008 and stay in the hunt to retain their Six Nations title next weekend.
It is the first time England have won all three away fixtures in the championship, while this win lifts Lancaster's side up to fourth in the world rankings.
Despite a couple of early flashes from the French, England were the better side for the opening half-hour and scored two fine tries to take control of the match.
Chris Ashton produced a shuddering tackle on hooker Dimitri Szarzewski and Owen Farrell scooped up the loose ball, before Lee Dickson sent Tuilagi thundering away to beat Aurelien Rougerie and score in the corner.
After Farrell converted, Lionel Beauxis landed a long-range penalty to get France on the board but England roared straight back with a second try.
Number eight Ben Morgan beat two defenders on a rampaging run before fending off Imanol Harinordoquy and slipping a deft offload to Ben Foden, who dragged Vincent Clerc with him over the line.
But after Farrell converted, he missed a straightforward penalty chance and a foolish push from Ashton right in front of his own posts gifted France a three-pointer for Dupuy.
England were beginning to lose their discipline particularly at the breakdown and conceded two more before the interval to go in just 14-9 ahead.
Farrell extended England's advantage after Fofana was penalised for a deliberate knock-on, defying the ill-mannered jeers to land a nerveless kick from 40 metres out.
Almost immediately, England conceded another penalty for pulling down a maul on their own 10 metre line, which Beauxis missed, before Charlie Sharples was somewhat harshly sent to the sin-bin for a deliberate knock-on.
France looked set to score when Clement Poitrenaud sent Fofana crashing into the England 22, but he was half-stopped by Foden's tackle before Dan Cole joined in and forced the French centre to knock on.
Although England saw out the sin-bin without conceding, France quickly cut the deficit to just two points with two more penalties from Beauxis.
England had to respond and they did through Croft, who showed inpressive power, pace and even a sidestep to cut between Rougerie and Imanol Harinordoquy before rounding Poitrenaud to score a brilliant individual try.
But there was still time for late drama. From a strong five-metre scrum, Fofana attacked the blindside and beat Sharples to score in the right corner.
Beaxis nailed the conversion and although France threatened - Francois Trinh-Duc's late drop-goal attempt fell short - England had just enough to hold on.