Rugby

Itoje strikes late to edge England past France in Six Nations thriller

Maro itoje scored a late try for England in their 23-20 victory over France in the Six Nations tournament.
Maro itoje scored a late try for England in their 23-20 victory over France in the Six Nations tournament. Action Images via Reuters - PAUL CHILDS

England ended France’s unbeaten run in the 2021 Six Nations tournament on Saturday with a last-gasp Maro Itoje try at Twickenham.

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The visitors were leading 20-16 with three minutes remaining and on the cusp of their first win in west London since 2005.

But sustained surges took the English pack to the five-metre line and after the initial thrust was repelled, Itoje pounced on the ball and arrowed over.

The video referee confirmed the try to give the hosts a 21-20 lead. Skipper Owen Farrell, whose penalty at the start of the second-half had brought his side to within four points of the French, converted it to make it 23-20.

The French forage for the game winning try failed.

Control

“We lost control in the second half,” France head coach Fabien Galthié told France 2 TV station.

“We went back and it seemed as if we couldn’t get into their half. They finished stronger than us.”

England, who claimed the 2020 title, registered their second win of the campaign to take them to third in the table with 10 points behind Wales and France.

The start of the affair was not auspicious for Eddie Jones's much criticised team. 

In their first burst, winger Teddy Thomas chipped the ball over England full-back Max Malins and star scrum-half Antoine Dupont collected and touched down.

Matthieu Jalibert scored his first points of the afternoon with the conversion. 

Less than two minutes into the Test and France led 7-0

England though were level after 10 minutes when Anthony Watson marked his 50th cap with a score in the corner. Farrell converted and he added two penalties to put his side 13-7 up.

But then France turned on the power and style. A rolling maul eventually drew a penalty and Jalibert converted it to cut the deficit to 13-10.

Flamboyance

Three minutes later came the try of the match.

Julien Marchand’s line-out was floated long to Gael Fickou who sprinted forward and cut the ball back to Dupont who quickly fed Jalibert.

The fly-half sucked in two defenders before looping the ball over to Damien Penaud on the right wing and he finished the flamboyance as he nonchalantly trotted into the end zone for a 15-13 lead.

Jalibert added the extra two points and the 22-year-old notched up three more immediately after the restart to give France a 20-13 advantage. 

They were his side’s last points of the encounter.

"To come back and get a win is the most important thing,” Watson, who was deemed man-of-the-match, told ITV.

"We knew we had not performed to our standards particularly in discipline against Wales.

"It was a great game to be involved with, credit to France, it was a joy to be part of.

"Scoring a try in the last five minutes and controlling it at the end was the main thing. We are pretty happy with that.”

England finish their tournament next Saturday with a trip to Dublin to take on Ireland while France will try and extinguish Welsh hopes of a Grand Slam at the Stade de France before entertaining Scotland at the same venue.

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