England's French Failure Sees Ireland Crowned Six Nations Champions

England's French Failure Sees Ireland Crowned Six Nations Champions
19:37, 10 Mar 2018

France 22 England 16

Ireland were crowned 2018 Six Nations champions after England surrendered their title with a bitterly disappointing defeat to France at the Stade de France in Paris.

Eddie Jones’ men, still smarting from their loss to Scotland a fortnight earlier, needed to beat the French with a bonus-point victory to have any hope of stopping Ireland reclaiming the Six Nations title they last won in 2015.

But they ran into a dogged and determined French outfit who, after a penalty-strewn first half which ended 9-9, ran out ultimately worthy victors in front of a raucous home crowd.

England full-back Anthony Watson was shown a yellow card in the 49th minute for a high tackle on Benjamin Fall which denied the France wing a try-scoring opportunity.

It proved costly as the French were awarded a penalty try and they did not look back thereafter, even if Jonny May’s late converted score for England threatened to set up a grandstand finish.

England went into the match as favourites having won their previous three Six Nations encounters with France and with their ears still burning following their defeat at Scotland last time out.

Owen Farrell captained the Red Rose for the first time with Dylan Hartley out injured, while Ben Te’o came into the side to face down Mathieu Bastareaud.

Farrell's boot got England off the mark as he kicked a penalty from 40 yards after the collapse of a scrum in midfield.

The Saracens star saw plenty of ball in the early exchanges as England looked to set up camp inside France's 22-metre line.

Jones' men went through their phases and Farrell almost escaped down the right channel before a fine tackle from France prop Rabah Slimani halted his progress.

When Slimani was then penalised for another scrum offence, Wasps man Elliot Daly stepped up to boot a superb three-pointer from halfway and put England 6-0 up.

Yet France began to work their way into the game and enjoy a few phases of their own in England territory.

Scrum-half Maxime Machenaud kicked a penalty to get the hosts off the mark in the 25th minute and, although Farrell kicked his second penalty, two more from Machenaud made it 9-9 at the break.

In truth it was largely uninspiring stuff from both sides with genuine tryscoring opportunities scarce.

Leicester winger May threatened to scamper clear down the left flank as half-time approached but he was halted by Machenaud's implacable tackle, much to the delight of the home crowd.

In the second half, the atmosphere and the intensity of proceedings cranked up several notches as the match began to slip through England’s fingers.

Nine minutes after the restart, Watson’s challenge on Fall inside the left channel saw the Bath man yellow carded and the penalty try gave France a huge advantage.

Machenaud kicked another penalty in the 63rd minute before England scored a delightful try five minutes from time when Daly sent May over and Farrell converted.

But France held on for a victory to condemn England to a second successive defeat and a raise more than a few questions over Jones’ side.

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