England defeated France 23-20 at Twickenham
Late Maro Itoje try wins Six Nations thriller
This match was a double shot in the arm for rugby. From start to finish, it was thrilling as England and France went at it in the Six Nations.
And in the last few minutes it was that man Maro Itoje who crashed over to claim the victory for England. As the final whistle blew it was 23-20 for the hosts. Superlatives sloshed around as pundits and fans alike celebrated a game played at breakneck speed.
It all started at a lick, as star scrum-half Antoine Dupont scored after 65 seconds. But England responded immediately through Anthony Watson.
With England under the shadow of the French posts, the ball made it to George Ford, who slung it wide to Watson. France’s Teddy Thomas – who had made Dupont’s score possible with a canny chip ahead – flew up, and the England star had a clear run-in.
The first half also gifted us another cracking try, as a fantastic set-piece move from France led to Damian Penaud scoring.
From a whip-smart lineout move over the top, Gael Fickou passed back inside to Dupont. He found Matthieu Jalibert and a looping ball made it over to the wing. The try made it 17-13 in France’s favour and some will have been wishing that, just for today, half-time was abolished.
England would go on to concede 12 penalties through the game and there were fears that the crippling indiscipline of the previous three rounds was creeping back in. But England kept duking and, despite a little more disarray in the second half, the intent was still there. And in this one, you might permiss the use of “finishers” as England’s bench made telling contributions.
France were unable to make significant inroads into the England 22 and in the closing minutes it was French indiscipline that allowed the hosts to set up an attacking platform deep in the opposition half.
England’s last try was fine reward for their efforts. With Will Stuart picking and going, the next phase left a ball there in front of Itoje, who added momentum. Picking and plunging for the line, he took Cameron Woki over with him. Was it held up? No, said TMO Joy Neville, and referee Andrew Brace gave the try.
France still had a chance to score at the end – and if they had won it with their last breath we would most likely declare this one of the greatest Six Nations matches of all time – but the mistake came from the unlikeliest of sources as Dupont knocked on.
England have their big win in this Six Nations. France’s chance of a Grand Slam evaporates. And we have a great game to look back on.
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