Rugby Union

England fall short in Six Nations despite France victory

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Ben Youngs was the star of the show as England beat France 55-35 at Twickenham - but it wasn't enough to win the Six Nations title as they trailed Ireland's points difference by six.

England and France shared 12 tries and nine conversions in a match that will be hailed as one of the greatest international rugby matches of all time.

Youngs was named Man Of The Match and was indeed the outstanding performer in the game, getting two tries.

England got a dream start after just two minutes as a brilliant passing game resulted in a try for Youngs. No.10 George Ford duly obliged with the conversion to give England a 7-0 lead before the game had even got going.

France then pulled the deficit back and took the lead with a penalty from Jules Plisson and a try from Sebastien Tillous-Borde.

Then came a moment of controversy as Noa Nakaitaci appeared to drop the ball before touching down as Youngs pushed him towards the dead ball line. The video referee decided however that Nakaitaci was in control and awarded the try.

Ford converted a tremendous penalty from 43 metres out after 27 minutes to close the gap to France, but England still had a big job to do.

Anthony Watson made the job easier as he scored a try for England as Youngs took the ball out of a ruck and ran towards the France line, ducking and dancing around the challenges as he went. After a reverse pass to Ford, the ball found it's way through a couple of tackles to Watson who touch the ball down smartly in the corner.

Youngs masterclass

Youngs touched down again but all the work was done by Jonathon Joseph. England won a line out but Youngs took it quickly, launching the ball five metres to Joseph who sprinted clear of the French players and gained a penalty. The penalty was taken quickly by Mike Brown only for another penalty to be awarded to England. Again, it was taken quickly and Youngs finished off the move he had started by diving between the posts to make it 24-15 as Ford scored yet another conversion.

Ford finished the first half by putting over a penalty and giving England a 12 point advantage. They would need to add 14 to it if they were to overcome Ireland's points difference and win the Six Nations title.

France came back fighting after the half-time break however, as a strong attack resulted in a try for Maxime Mermoz.

England responded in emphatic fashion as Youngs broke through the France defence only to pass the ball to Ford who completed the try to take the gap back to 12 points and make the score 34-22.

Rory Kockott replaced Plisson in the kicking duties and almost straight away was charged with kicking a penalty, which he converted successfully.

No sooner was the penalty kicked, England scored another try through Jack Nowell when the referee gave the home team an advantage and the Exeter wing touched down in the left-hand corner. England now led by 16 with 26 still the target points difference.

Haskell's indiscipline

Foul play was then called by the video referee and James Haskell was sent to the sin bin for tripping Plisson.

Perhaps the try of the night was scored next as Nakautaci broke free and ran almost half the length of the field, only to run out of space and offload the ball to Vincent Debarty who touched down in the corner. With only 20 minutes left, England's chances of the getting their hands on the Six Nations title were surely slipping away.

England went back on the charge and an exhilarating scrappy battle ensued just outside the France try line, firstly with Youngs diving for the line and failing, and the secondly with Billy Vunipola who managed to get the ball to the ground through a mass of bodies. The title was back on with the points difference up to 18.

England threw their advantage straight away however, as France touched the ball down with Benjamin Kayser.

England then made two changes - the sin binned Haskell replaced by Tom Wood and Geoff Parling replaced by Nick Easter.

Late charge

Joseph tried to go for the line himself but instead was tackled to the floor. Billy Twelvetrees passed to Ford who played a terrific delayed pass to Nowell who stole his way to the line to score his second try of the match and take the points advantage to 20 with only six more needed.

Unfortunately England ran were running out of time and just couldn't get the ball over the try line as best they tried. The roars from the England fans got louder and louder but the team got no nearer the line.

The ball broke and was kicked into touch which signalled the end of a pulsating match and the end of England's Six Nation title hopes - if only Stuart Hogg's try had been allowed in the previous game, England would have been named champions.

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Rugby Union
England Rugby
Six Nations
France Rugby

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