Saturday, November 27

Maro Itoje’s latest attempt rescues England and ends French hopes of a grand slam | Six nations

The Cardiff sinner became the match winner here. Maro Itoje gave away five penalties against Wales, but ended the French grand slam four minutes from the end when he picked up from a ruck, which again looked like it would be the area that cost England, and took two players to the line with him. .

France have not won in the Six Nations at Twickenham for 16 years and despite leading from the 32nd minute and playing with flashes of fluidity, they were unable to subdue opponents who, despite putting themselves back at a disadvantage by conceding penalties in positions. promising, they finally proved that they were. he could come from behind to win and make a play when it mattered, even after a driving maul and a pickup from a ruck.

England lasted 24 minutes before conceding their first penalty, although they made up for it later, but only kept their line intact for 65 seconds as France showed their attacking intent early on, inspired by their scrum half Antoine Dupont who caught Teddy Thomas. Chip to the line after centers Gaël Fickou and Virimi Vakatawa found space in midfield.

England took up the challenge and scored the next 13 points. They were tied after nine minutes, as France caused problems running from deep. It gave the champions a territorial foothold and, after Tom Curry and Mark Wilson fell short of the line, they worked an overlay down the right, but winger Max Malins lost his balance and his pass went into touch on instead of in the hands of Anthony Watson.

France wing Damian Penaud lands for a try against England at Twickenham.
France wing Damian Penaud lands for a try against England at Twickenham. Photograph: Tom Jenkins / NMC Pool / The Observer

The wing did not have to wait long before crowning its 50th international appearance with a try. Wilson came over the line but was unable to ground the ball after Henry Slade passed through the defense and when Thomas shot off the line early, George Ford’s measured pass found its target.

France had not played for a month and, at times, their calendar did not work. When Matthieu Jalibert, with little space, passed directly to Billy Vunipola, England created the position for Owen Farrell to kick the first of two penalties in three minutes after France breached the break under pressure.

England were up 13-7 and hadn’t bothered referee Andrew Brace. That changed in the 22nd minute when they conceded a free kick in one scrum and a penalty in the next when Mako Vunipola fell to his left knee. France played for position and when Dupont kicked into England’s line, Henry Slade’s fingertips prevented Jalibert from scoring.

Jalibert took a penalty after Wilson went berserk on a breakdown earlier, following another home team infraction, France kicked to touch England’s 22nd and shot long, where Fickou caught the ball and taunted the defense with the option. Thomas’s internal as Dupont spun out of him.

He moved on to the scrum half who, with the defense off balance, immediately released the ball to Jalibert. The outside half held the line before launching long to the right wing where Damian Penaud ran 10 meters to the try line.

If there had been a somewhat casual feel to France’s game before, they were now in sync, Jalibert and Brice Dulin broke their own half to a telling effect and the interval came at the right time for England, who started the second period strongly but soon. . he conceded penalties in two attacking rucks through Malins and Mako Vunipola.

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Jalibert extended France’s lead to seven points after Itoje found himself on the wrong side of a ruck. Farrell seized an immediate opportunity to reply after Charles Ollivon missed the time on a lineout, but England again blew an attack as they were forced to hold on after one tackle. They made play during the week of France’s tendency to fade in the fourth quarter, although that’s what England did in the previous round in Cardiff, but it wasn’t going to matter as long as England continued to squander possession by conceding penalties at halftime.

When Billy Vunipola entered the France field after 65 minutes and tried to return the ball, he was forced to hold on for lack of support. England stayed in the game through their defense, Slade forced a handling error from Vakatawa at home 22, but the fluid nature of the opening period had turned into a stop-start as France tried to contain their nerves. years after his last six. Nations victory here, while England looked for a way to avoid their third defeat of the tournament.

There were nine minutes to go when Ellis Genge, who not long before had replaced Mako Vunipola, conceded England’s sixth penalty of the match in an attacking ruck under pressure from Penaud. England had two referees monitoring their practice this week but, like against Wales, their discipline broke down under pressure.

But they still came as France defended a four-point lead and rarely broke away from their own half. When England took a penalty on France’s 22nd with five minutes to go, they led a maul that was stopped five meters away. Then Itoje picked up and immersed himself in the challenges of Cameron Woki and Thomas. The referee ruled that the second row had not supported the ball, but changed his mind after seeing a replay of the incident on the big screen. There wasn’t much in him and no one was celebrating more than Wales.

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