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Last Updated: Saturday, 23 February 2008, 21:47 GMT
France 13-24 England
By James Standley

Paul Sackey (left) is congratulated by Toby Flood after scoring the first try in Paris
Paul Sackey (left) scored England's opening try of the match

France (7) 13
Tries: Nallet
Cons: Traille
Pens: Parra, Yachvili

England (13) 24
Tries: Sackey, Wigglesworth
Cons: Wilkinson
Pens: Wilkinson 3
Drop-goals: Wilkinson

England repeated their World Cup semi-final win over France to end Les Bleus' 100% record in the Six Nations.

England took the lead through Paul Sackey and a conversion and penalty from Jonny Wilkinson made it 10-0.

France hit back through Lionel Nallet's converted try but a second Wilkinson penalty made it 13-7 at the break.

A Morgan Parra penalty cut the gap to three but Wilkinson added a penalty and drop-goal before Richard Wigglesworth's last-gasp try killed off French hopes.

England had not won away to France in the Six Nations since 2000 but the last time they met in Paris, in the World Cup semi-final in October, England ground out a 14-9 win.

On that day France, under former coach Bernard Laporte, tried to match England's traditional strengths by playing a conservative style.

But a change of coach, with former Under-21 boss Marc Lievremont taking the reins, has seen them revert to the style known around the world as "French flair".

The match was billed as a clash between England's grizzled pack and French youthful exuberance, and to a large extent it proved to be just that.

England showed flashes of wit and invention in attack and their defence was heroic, but in the end it was their dominant pack which proved to be the difference between the two sides.

The hosts certainly followed the script from the opening whistle.

England did not legally lay a hand on the ball for the first two minutes and barely touched it for the first five as France whipped the ball about with abandon.

Jamie Noon hammers France full-back Cedric Heymans
Jamie Noon's thumping tackle set up the opening try of the game

However, that made them a touch predictable and as they spun the ball wide once too often Jamie Noon hammered France full-back Cedric Heymans in the tackle.

In the process the Newcastle centre knocked the ball forward but the referee was unsighted and Sackey pounced.

The winger, who had trials with Crystal Palace, Reading and Aston Villa football clubs as a teenager, demonstrated his soccer skills as he kicked ahead before scoring in composed fashion.

Wilkinson drilled the conversion between the posts and when France held on at a ruck after England stole a line-out he slotted the penalty to put the visitors into an early 10-0 lead.

France went into the match without a recognised top-line kicker, with centre Damien Traille handed the role, and when they were given their first shot at goal the Biarritz man missed a difficult long-range effort.

England suffered a blow after 20 minutes as James Haskell limped off with an injured ankle, with Leicester's Tom Croft coming on as replacement to win his first cap.

Within five minutes the hosts had scored their first try. Scrum-half Parra, just 19, orchestrated a surging attack and giant lock Nallet was on hand to drill over from a yard.

Traille converted and although Wilkinson soon hit back with a penalty after France infringed at a ruck, Traille belted a kickable penalty against the posts to ensure the visitors led 13-7 at the break.


France played with plenty of pace in the first 40 minutes but they upped the tempo even further after the interval and hit back when the precocious Parra replaced Traille as kicker and slotted a tricky penalty after hooker Mark Regan lost his discipline at a ruck.

However, as the half wore on the French whirlwind subsided and the England pack began to make some headway, with Andrew Sheridan and Co putting the French front row under increasing pressure.

They failed to take advantage of two penalties as Wilkinson firstly missed to the right and then fell short.

But the fly-half made no mistake with a 65th-minute drop-goal after a thunderous midfield charge from ex-rugby league star Lesley Vainikolo had set up the position.

In the process Wilkinson overtook former Argentine great Hugo Porta's mark of 28 to become the all-time leading drop-goal scorer in Test rugby.

As the game entered the final 15 minutes France were looking increasingly ragged, while England were beginning to butcher the callow French front row.

The hosts managed to cut the gap to six points through a 73rd-minute Yachvili penalty, but the visitors were not to be denied and Wigglesworth scooted over at the death to ensure a second memorable night in Paris for England in the last four months.

  • Highlights of this match are available on the BBC Sport website now (UK users only).

  • Watch the match in full on BBC iPlayer for seven days from Sunday (UK users only).

    France: Heymans; Rougerie, Marty, Traille, Clerc; Trinh-Duc, Parra; Faure, Szarzewski, Mas, Nallet, Pape, Bonnaire, Dusautoir, Picamoles.
    Replacements: Floch for Rougerie (66), Skrela for Trinh-Duc (66), Yachvili for Parra (66), Servat for Szarzewski (59), Poux for Mas (56), Thion for Pape (59), Ouedraogo for Picamoles (77).

    England: Balshaw; Sackey, Noon, Flood, Vainikolo; Wilkinson, Wigglesworth; Sheridan, Regan, Vickery, Shaw, Borthwick, Haskell, Lipman, Easter.
    Replacements: Tait for Noon (70), Stevens for Sheridan (72), Mears for Regan (50), Kay for Shaw (70), Croft for Haskell (21). Not Used: Hodgson, Cipriani.

    Att: 80,000

    Ref: Steve Walsh (New Zealand).

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