34 - 10
(Half Time 29 - 0)
Sun 15th Mar 09, 15:00
Referee: Stuart Dickinson
15 March 2009, 5:08 pm
Rampant England crush France
England romped to their most emphatic victory over France since the glory days of 2003 as Martin Johnson's under-fire side enjoyed a staggering return to form at Twickenham.
If this, as had been mooted in some quarters, was ‘Le Crunch’ after five defeats in seven Tests, then England answered their critics in style.
All the talk of sin-binnings and ill-discipline was forgotten on a glorious spring afternoon as England roared into a 29-0 half-time lead with tries from Mark Cueto, Riki Flutey, Delon Armitage and Joe Worsely.
Flutey added a second shortly after the restart and, although France managed two consolation tries through Dimitri Szarzewski and Julien Malzieu, the match had long since been won by England.
England defended with courage, defiance and brains and they attacked with vision and confidence. In a throwback to the days when Johnson was captain, England became the leading try-scorers in the competition with 13.
They impressed from the kick-off. Flutey spotted the perfect mis-match and sliced past Sebastien Chabal before sending Cueto away to touch down the opening try with just 70 seconds on the clock.
Simon Shaw hit a ruck from the side to offer Francois Trinh-Duc a shot at goal, which he missed, but otherwise England’s defence was defiant.
If England were dominant without the ball, they were incisive with it. Flood extended the lead to 10-0 after Imanol Harinordoquy was ruled offside before a slick attacking move sent Flutey over for a second try.
A similar training ground move had sent Mathew Tait clear in Dublin a fortnight ago - but on this occasion England were able to provide the finishing touch.
From the back of an attacking lineout, Flood slipped an inside pass for Cueto to carve through the French line before returning the favour with the scoring pass for Flutey.
Tom Croft thought he had got in on the action when Harry Ellis whipped play right following another of Nick Easter’s powerful carries but play was called back for a marginally forward pass from Lee Mears.
Not that the now excitable Twickenham crowd had to wait long. France were wobbling and England hammered home the advantage with two tries in the last three minutes of the half.
After Chabal had been stripped of possession by Flutey, England piled forward and pitched camp in the French 22. Shaw’s charge was halted short of the line but Armitage was on hand to provide the finishing touch.
England were now attacking in waves. Ellis chipped ahead and Flood came within inches of the line before slipping but the ball was shipped wide for Worsley to secure England a quite remarkable 29-0 lead at the interval.
Half-time did nothing to dilute England’s dominance or halt their momentum and when Yannick Jauzion spilled the ball after a brilliant tackle from Ellis, Armitage raced clear on the counter-attack and Flutey was on hand to finish a sparkling 75-metre try.
England began to ring the changes and, unable to maintain their complete dominance, France eventually got on the scoreboard with hooker Szarzewski tunnelling over the line after France had earned two penalties deep in England’s 22.
England’s bad habits began to creep back in and referee Stuart Dickinson issued a warning as France cranked up the pressure at the scrum before winger Malzieu was able to saunter over for a simple try.
But England finished on a high with another powerful carry from Easter sending Armitage on another blistering break into the French half.
Johnson had urged England to win back the faith of the Twickenham crowd. They did so in spades.