Composed England hold off France
Sat, 23 Feb 2013 18:43
The opening try was piece of individual brilliance from Fofana
England showed good composure to secure a 23-13 victory over France in their Six Nations encounter at a chilly Twickenham on Saturday.
Owen Farrell kicked 12 points and replacement flyhalf Toby Flood landed two late penalties as England inflicted a third straight defeat of the tournament on bottom-of-the-table France - 'Les Bleus' worst start to a Championship since they lost their opening three games in the 1982 Five Nations.
Much-improved France turned round 10-9 in front after Wesley Fofana's superb solo score provided the only try of the first half.
The game was still in the balance, with England leading 12-10, when recalled centre Tuilagi scored a try that might have been disallowed for a ruck offence in the build-up.
It was a sign of England's strength that coach Stuart Lancaster made three changes to a winning side, with the powerful Tuilagi replacing Billy Twelvetrees in midfield and Dylan Hartley taking over from Tom Youngs at hooker.
Meanwhile Courtney Lawes marked his 24th birthday by filling in for 'flu victim James Haskell at blindside flank.
France coach Philippe Saint-Andre reacted to defeats by Italy and Wales by making seven changes and a positional switch.
Halfbacks Morgan Parra and Francois Trinh-Duc returned while Fofana was moved to his preferred position of centre, with Vincent Clerc taking his place on the wing.
Up front, hooker Benjamin Kayser, prop Thomas Domingo, flanker Yannick Nyanga and debutant lock Christophe Simon featured in a new-look pack.
Farrell and scrumhalf Parra exchanged early penalties to leave the match level at 3-3 in the fourth minute.
The French pack shoved their England counterparts backwards to win a penalty and also denied the hosts continuity of possession at the breakdown.
England came close to a try but had to settle for another Farrell penalty after the onrushing Tuilagi was brilliantly tackled by Parra just a few yards away from the line.
Instead it was France who had a try thanks to a brilliant 30th minute effort from Fofana, released after Clerc expertly gathered a high ball.
Fofana evaded Lawes on the halfway line and sped past wing Chris Ashton before avoiding an attempted tap tackle by England captain Chris Robshaw.
Fofana handed off scrumhalf Ben Youngs and the recovering Ashton's desperate dive couldn't derail a run of more than 60 metres to the line for a great individual score.
Parra converted and France were 10-6 in front.
Farrell's third penalty reduced France's lead to a point and that was their lead at half-time after Parra, a controlling influence in open play, saw a long-range penalty fall short.
Early in the second half England conceded a scrum penalty but Parra's 40m effort drifted to the right of the posts
France were made to pay for those penalty misses either side of half-time when, after a drive off a line-out, Farrell made it four goalkicks from four attempts to edge England 12-10 in front in the 47th minute.
Tuilagi, who on his last England start scored one and created two of their three tries in a shock 38-21 win over world champions New Zealand in December, extended that lead to 17-10 as the hosts finally crossed France's line.
Nyanga dropped a high ball and in the ensuing ruck the ball was kicked forward by Tom Wood onto England replacement Mako Vunipola.
However, South African referee Craig Joubert - in charge when France lost the 2011 World Cup final to New Zealand - let play continue and the ball squirted out to Tuilagi who powered his way over from 40 metres.
Farrell, surprisingly, missed the conversion and shortly afterwards England's lead was cut to 17-13 when France replacement flyhalf Frederic Michalak landed a penalty.
Flyhalf Farrell then appeared to suffer a leg injury in kicking a penalty that fell short of the posts and was replaced by Flood.
England, with Flood also kicking well out of hand, then played most of the last 10 minutes in the French 22 to secure a hard-fought win.
Man of the match: It was a team effort from England, and no-one worked harder than their captain Chris Robshaw who gave absolutely everything.
Moment of the match: The opening try was piece of individual brilliance from Fofana who got the ball out wide in his own half and danced through the English defence to run in a try of high quality.
Villain of the match: There were none.
Pens: Farrell 4, Flood 2
Pens: Parra, Michalak
Yellow card: Cole (78 mins, foul play)
England: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Manusamoa Tuilagi, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Mike Brown, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Tom Wood, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 David Wilson, 18 Mako Vunipola, 19 James Haskell, 20 Thomas Waldrom, 21 Danny Care, 22 Toby Flood, 23 Billy Twelvetrees.
France: 15 Yoann Huget, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Benjamin Fall, 10 Francois Trinh-Duc, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Thierry Dusautoir (captain), 6 Yannick Nyanga, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Christophe Samson, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Thomas Domingo.
Replacements: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Luc Ducalcon, 19 Jocelino Suta, 20 Antonie Claassen, 21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 Frederic Michalak, 23 Florian Fritz.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: John Lacey (Ireland), Leighton Hodges (Wales)
TMO: Jim Yuille (Scotland)
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