England beat France 55-35 at Twickenham but but fall just short of winning Six Nations title
Last Updated: 21/03/15 8:21pm
England beat France 55-35 at Twickenham but could not quite make up the points difference to wrestle the Six Nations Championship away from Ireland.
Needing to win by 26 points to win the title, England outscored France by seven tries to five in a game that rounded off a thrilling final round of the Six Nations.
Earlier Wales had hammered Italy 61-20 in Rome to set the tone for a monumental day but Ireland's 40-10 win over Scotland meant Warren Gatland's men were no longer able to finish top and Ireland were in the driving seat.
That left it up to England to spoil Ireland’s party, and boy did they give it a go.
A brace each from Ben Youngs and Jack Nowell, plus tries from Anthony Watson, Billy Vunipola and George Ford – who also scored 23 points with the boot – gave England a superb chance of overturning the deficit.
However France played their part in an amazing game and fought tooth and nail to deny England that final converted try that would have seen them crowned champions.
Sebastien Tillous-Borde, Noa Nakaitaci, Benjamin Kayser, Vincent Debaty and Maxime Mermoz scored tries for France, who showed their best and worst sides at Twickenham, with fly-half Jules Plisson successful with just two of his five kicks at goal and replacement fly-half Rory Kockott adding a penalty.
It took England just over a minute to surge into the lead with Youngs surging over the line from close range after a blistering England attack left the French defence stretched.
France surged into gear and scored two tries in quick succession. Firstly, scrum-half Tillous-Borde was left with a free run from inside his own half all the way over the line for a try. Then wing Nakaitaci almost made a mess of a try when he also raced down the left flank and strolled across the line.
He delayed touching it down so long he almost put his left foot over the back line first. But video evidence showed he had just managed to get the ball down first by the skin of his teeth and Plisson converted for a 15-7 lead.
Tempers flared when the French players reacted angrily to Courtney Lawes's massive tackle on Tillous-Borde, but referee Nigel Owens calmed things down with no action taken.
End to end
Ford kicked a penalty before England were awarded a try when Watson grounded the ball in the right hand corner. It took countless video replays to judge whether there was a knock on or offside before Owens gave the score and Ford converted to put England ahead again.
The end to end action continued with Joseph's stunning long break from inside his own 22 yard line up to near the French line. He was tackled short but England worked a quick penalty with Youngs darting over for his second try.
England's defence was sliced open at the start of the second half when fierce French pressure resulted in a try for Plisson, the scrum-half darting through with ease and converting his own score.
Youngs burst through the French defence with similar comfort to slip the ball for Ford to go over unchallenged before converting his own try.Nowell followed up with a try as England began to believe again.
Replacement scrum-half Kockott reduced England's advantage with a penalty and the hosts were reduced to 14 men with James Haskell sin binned for tripping Plisson.
A breakaway try saw Nakaitaci feed prop Guilhem Guirado to go over the England line. Again England hit back with Vunipola crashing over for England's sixth try which Ford converted.
But the drama was not over as yet again France hit back with replacement hooker Kayser dropping down for a try from a French maul.
Nowell went over for his second try and England went for a grand stand finish but could not get the converted try needed to snatch the title and Stuart Lancaster's men had to settle for second place for the fourth year running.