France hang on for victory
REPORT: France failed to score any second half points but hung on to claim a 23-18 victory over England in the first Under-19 International Series match in Cape Town on Friday.
France took a commanding 23-5 lead into the half-time break but England came out firing to dominate the second half by scoring all the points. The deficit proved too much though as they had to settle for the heartbreaking defeat.
France drew first blood when Romain Ntamack slotted an early penalty after England infringed inside their 22. But the young Roses hit back soon after when Jacob Umaga picked off a French pass and sprinted all of 60 metres to grab the game's opening try.
James Grayson failed with his conversion attempt as England held a 5-3 lead. Ntamack regained his side's lead when he slotted his second penalty of the game to restore France's lead and edge them 6-5 ahead.
The lead exchanged hands once again when Grayson found his range with a 41-metre penalty to hand his side an 8-6 lead. France then regained the lead when Julien Delbouis scored under the uprights after some patient build-up.
Ntamack easily added the extras to extend his side's lead to 13-8. Enzo Hardy grabbed France's second try of the match when he bashed his way through England's defence. Ntamack was on song once again as his conversion ensured a 20-8 lead.
France began turning the screw from that point and found further reward through a third Ntamack penalty to hand France a commanding 23-8 lead at half-time.
England came out firing in the second half and reduced the deficit through a Ciaran Knight try. Grayson failed with the conversion as England trailed 13-23. They kept pressing from that point and found further reward when Sam Moore broke off the back of a scrum to dot down in the corner.
The conversion went wide but the deficit was reduced to 18-23 to set up a tense finish. England remained in control and came close to stealing victory in the final seconds but France stood firm to claim the win.
Tries: Jacob Umaga, Ciaran Knight, Sam Moore
Pen: James Grayson
Tries: Julien Delbouis, Enzo Hardy
Cons: Romain Ntamack 2
Pens: Romain Ntamack 3
England: 15 Ali Crossdale, 14 Tom Parton, 13 Matt Williams, 12 Jacob Umaga, 11 Levi Davis, 10 James Grayson, 9 Rory Brand, 8 Tom Willis, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Josh Bayliss (captain), 5 Josh Williams, 4 Ted Hill, 3 Ciaran Knight, 2 Jamie Blamire, 1 Alex Seville.
Replacements: 16 Henry Walker, 17 Jarod Leat, 18 Ehren Painter, 19 Dino Lamb-Cona, 20 Sam Moore, 21 Ben Curry, 22 Harry Simmons, 23 Ben Loader, 24 Gabriel Ibitoye.
France: 15 Jules Even, 14 Lucas Tharin, 13 Julien Delbouis, 12 Pierre Louis Barassi, 11 Iban Etcheverry, 10 Romain Ntamack, 9 Enzo Hardy, 8 Adrien Vigne, 7 Baptiste Heguy, 6 Cameron Woki, 5 Pierre-Henri Azagoh Kouadio, 4 Killian Geraci, 3 Daniel Brennan (captain), 2 Teddy Baubigny, 1 Hassane Kolingar.
Replacements: 16 Maxime Lamothe, 17 Ugo Boniface, 18 Simon-Pierre Chauvac, 19 Walid Maamry, 20 Alexandre Coing, 21 Adrien Jozroland , 22 Jules Gimbert, 23 Clément Laporte, 24 Adrien Seguret, 25 Dorian Clerc, 26 Maxime Marty.
Referee: Egon Seconds (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Nathan Barry (South Africa), Sinethemba Mrulwa (South Africa)
TMO: Joey Klaaste-Salmans (South Africa)