France 22-16 England: Ireland win Six Nations as England fall short in Paris
Last Updated: 11/03/18 7:18am
Ireland were crowned Six Nations champions after England were beaten 22-16 by France in Paris on Saturday.
While England did look slightly sharper than they were against Scotland, their attack lacked intensity and fluidity and they were once again penalised consistently at the breakdown. Despite saying that they had learnt their lessons from that Scotland loss, there was no sign of the four tries Eddie Jones' side needed to make next weekend's clash at Twickenham against Ireland a title decider.
A penalty try, four penalties from Maxime Machenaud and one from Lionel Beauxis gave France the win while England's points came from a Jonny May try that was converted by Owen Farrell who also added two penalties, with Elliot Daly landing a penalty.
Penalties dominated the first half as both sides were guilty of poor discipline, while France lacked precision at the set-piece.
England took the lead after three minutes when France were harshly penalised at the scrum for boring in and Farrell settled the nerves with an early three points.
Daly nailed England's second penalty from 55 metres out when France were again penalised at the scrum, as Rabah Slimani dropped his bind.
France clawed back three points through a Machenaud penalty after England went offside in the 24th minute. The visitors were dealt a blow as they lost Nathan Hughes to a knee injury with Sam Simmonds coming on to replace him.
England were gifted three more points just before the half-hour mark after France collapsed the scrum and Farrell knocked over his second penalty to make it 9-3.
France had their best chance of the half when backs and forwards combined to get deep into England's 22 - but they lacked ideas and they knocked on at the ruck. However, a Maro Itoje high tackle meant Machenaud narrowed the scores to make it 6-9.
Machenaud levelled the score moments later when England were once again offside and he nailed a long-range effort that Daly would have been proud of.
With the half running down, England had a good attacking scrum but a knock on meant it came to nothing and they went into the break all square.
France seemed to be growing into the game as the second half started and despite a silly penalty from Slimani, were able to halt another England attack with more excellent work at the breakdown.
The game then exploded into life as France were awarded a penalty try when Benjamin Fall was tackled high by Anthony Watson in the corner. It went from bad to worse for England when Watson was shown yellow for that indiscretion.
France should have scored their second try in the 51st minute but butchered an overlap after a great break from Grosso. They should have turned up the pressure with a scrum 5 metres out but England dug deep to win the penalty.
Machenaud extended the lead on the hour mark with another penalty to make it a 19-9 after England were once again penalised at the breakdown.
England did score in the 73rd minute after Farrell fired out a pass to Daly on the wing, who knocked it back inside to May who went over. Farrell converted to make it 19-16.
However, France piled on the pressure and won a penalty to which Beauxis converted and while England had two chances to steal the game at the death, France held on to claim the win and give Ireland the Championship.
Man of the Match
The breakdown work from France was exceptional as they caused chaos for England at this area - with the likes of hooker Guilhelm Guirado and Mathieu Bastareaud being unmovable in this area. Maxime Machenaud's kicking display was also excellent for France. It was not England's day but Elliot Daly's inside pass for May's try was something for the highlight reel.
England's lack of precision and fluidity on attack will be a worry for Eddie Jones as will their high penalty count - 16 in all. While the set-piece did not exactly fire for France, their forwards were extremely powerful and outplayed their England counterparts.