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France 24-21 England

France survived a late English fightback at the Stade de France to win the Grand Slam on Saturday.

The hosts led 21-3 at the break but England hit back through tries from Ben Cohen and Josh Lewsey.

It looked briefly as though the visitors would get out of jail, but the home side did enough to hang on.

Number eight Imanol Harinordoquy scored France’s first try, with scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili grabbing a second and adding 14 points with the boot.

Olly Barkley kicked 11 points for England, but it was not enough to prevent France claiming their fourth Grand Slam in the past eight years.

England had the first chance to get on the board but once Barkley’s long-range penalty had fallen short France began to take control.

Although it took them nearly 20 minutes to score they looked threatening, while all England had to show for their initial efforts was a massive Phil Vickery hit on Olivier Magne.

The hosts finally opened their account after 19 minutes when Yachvili slotted a penalty after England were penalised for standing up in the scrum.

And the scrum-half played a major role in France’s opening try four minutes later.

He spotted that the English defence had been sucked in and chipped a cross-kick into the wide open spaces.

French number eight Harinordoquy was lurking with intent and, once the bounce went in his favour, he dotted the ball down with ease.

When Yachvili added two more penalties to take France into a 14-0 lead things were looking ominous for the faltering world champions.

Barkley eventually got England on the board with a penalty but just before the break Yachvili scored France’s second try with a fine individual effort.

After the ball squirted out of a ruck on the French side Yachvili darted down the narrow blindside before chipping ahead and winning the race to the ball.

The Biarritz scrum-half’s conversion gave France a 21-3 lead and England were staring at humiliation.

Barkley and Yachvili exchanged penalties early in the second half before England finally crossed the French line when Mike Catt, on for the out-of-sorts Will Greenwood, looped a fine long pass to Cohen, who had a clear run to the line.

France soon added a fourth Yachvili penalty and they became increasingly dominant, pinning England back in their own half giving the English pack a torrid time.

It looked as though England were dead and buried but they came to life in the last 10 minutes and cut the gap to just three points as Barkley kicked a penalty and then converted after Lewsey sliced through the French defence for a fine try.

France began to look increasingly worried but time was against England and in the end their revival fell just short.

Teams

France
N Brusque (Biarritz); P Elhorga (Agen), Y Jauzion (Stade Toulousain), D Traille (Pau), C Dominici (Stade Francais); F Michalak (Stade Toulousain), D Yachvili (Biarritz); I Harinordoquy (Pau), O Magne (Montferrand), S Betsen (Biarritz), P Pape (Bourgoin), F Pelous (Stade Toulousain, capt), P De Villiers (Stade Francais), W Servat (Stade Toulousain), S Marconnet (Stade Francais).

Replacements
Y Bru (Stade Toulousain), JJ Crenca (Agen), D Auradou (Stade Francais), T Lievremont (Biarritz), P Mignoni (Montferrand), J Peyrelongue (Biarritz), C Poitrenaud (Biarritz).

England
J Robinson (Sale), J Lewsey (Wasps), W Greenwood (Quins), M Tindall (Bath), B Cohen (Saints), O Barkley (Bath), M Dawson (Saints), T Woodman (Gloucester), S Thompson (Saints), P Vickery (Gloucester), D Grewcock (Bath), B Kay (Leicester), J Worsley (Wasps), R Hill (Saracens), L Dallaglio (Wasps, capt).

Replacements
M Regan (Leeds), J White (Leicester), S Borthwick (Bath), M Corry (Leicester), A Gomarsall (Gloucester), M Catt (Bath), J Simpson-Daniel ( Gloucester).

This entry was posted on Saturday, March 27th, 2004 at 10:04 pm and is filed under Six Nations. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.


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