Six Nations: England complete Grand Slam with victory over France in Paris
By Keith Moore
Last Updated: 20/03/16 12:09pm
England completed a Grand Slam in the 2016 Six Nations with a 31-21 win over France in Paris on Saturday night.
Though the Six Nations title had already been won by England going into the game, victory over France was new England coach Eddie Jones' instruction as he sought a clean sweep in his first campaign in charge.
His troops delivered, with Danny Care and Dan Cole crossing for first-half tries that gave England a 17-12 lead going into the break, while an Anthony Watson score and the boot of Owen Farrell saw them complete their first Grand Slam since 2003.
The loss means France slip to fifth in the standings, while Wales finish second and Ireland's victory over Scotland in Dublin hands them third spot.
The French started Saturday's game in Paris with more purpose than they showed in any of the previous four games of the campaign, and they had the England defence scrambling in the initial minutes. Maxime Machenaud opened the scoring when Maro Itojoe was caught impeding at the ruck, with the French scrum-half sending a close-range penalty through the uprights.
His effort was cancelled out shortly thereafter when a high tackle off the restart gave Farrell his first chance for three points, which he duly took.
Care then crossed for the first try of the game, spotting a gap on the edge of a ruck to snipe through and race clear from 40 metres out to cross untouched under the poles.
Farrell converted, and France's problems were compounded when it transpired fly-half Francois Trinh-Duc had rolled his ankle in the phases leading up to the try, and was forced to leave the field to be replaced by Jules Plisson with just ten minutes on the clock.
Machenaud added another penalty when Mako Vunipola was penalised at the scrum to keep France within touching distance of their guests.
Cole then muscled his way over from close range on the back of several failed tackle attempts from French defenders to stretch his side's lead. Replays suggested there was a hint of obstruction from fellow prop Vunipola in the build-up to the score, but referee Nigel Owens was satisfied that the try should stand, and Farrell added the extras to make it 17-6.
The scoreline did not seem to bother the home side, who persevered with their expansive game as they continued to pressure the English defence. The pressure turned into several kickable opportunities, with Machenaud adding two further penalties to make it a five-point game as the first half drew to a close.
Rabah Slimani was then penalised at the scrum to hand Farrell an opportunity to extend the lead before the break, but the centre sent it wide to leave it 17-12 at half-time.
The kickers traded efforts at the beginning of the second half before a break from replacement Ben Youngs into French territory saw the scrum-half put through a grubber which Watson latched onto in the corner for the try. Farrell missed the conversion, and Machenaud added another penalty to leave England 25-21 ahead on the hour.
In the 72nd minute when Youngs was hit high in the tackle Farrell stepped up to put England seven points ahead, and when Xavier Chiocci was shown a yellow card for a professional foul with three minutes remaining, Farrell closed the game out with his final kick of the night for a 31-21 victory.