England (9) 17 Tries: Foden Pens: Flood 3, Wilkinson France (9) 9 Pens: Yachvili 3
Highlights - England 17-9 France
By James Standley
England gave their Grand Slam hopes a major boost as they ended defending champions France's eight-match winning streak in the Six Nations.
Toby Flood kicked England into a 9-3 lead but Dimitri Yachvili's boot made it 9-9 at the break.
Ben Foden's try saw England go back in front before Jonny Wilkinson resumed his position as the leading Test points scorer with a penalty.
After three games England are now the only team with a 100% record.
Victory at home to Scotland on 12 March would send them to Dublin for their final game, in pursuit of a first Grand Slam since 2003.
Foden forces his way over for England
France claimed their own Grand Slam last year with a nervy victory at home to England and it was another gripping encounter at Twickenham, where heavy pre-match rain led to greasy conditions and made handling difficult throughout.
England started well before letting the French back into the game but, once they sorted out their problems at the breakdown and cut out the unforced errors, the hosts looked increasingly assured.
Martin Johnson's men managed to steal the first French line-out and then got a big drive on at the first scrum to earn the opening penalty of the match, which Flood duly drilled between the sticks from wide on the left.
France's narrow win over England in Paris last year had been based on their advantage at the scrum and it was a big statement from the English eight that things would be different this time, but the hosts immediately squandered their advantage from the restart.
They secured the kick-off comfortably but shovelled the ball down the line and Shontayne Hape was buried by the French defence in front of his posts.
The Bath centre was inevitably penalised for holding on and recalled scrum-half Yacvhili, who kicked France to victory in 2005 when they last won at Twickenham, levelled the scores.
A second penalty at the scrum in England's favour was soon followed by two French off-sides in five minutes and Flood kicked the hosts into a 9-3 lead with just over quarter-of-an-hour played.
Despite the slippery ball England were putting together some flowing attacks but once again silly play immediately handed France the chance to cut the gap.
Talismanic France number eight Sebastien Chabal was hammered back in a double tackle by Nick Easter and Dan Cole but, when the ball popped loose, Easter could not resist illegally using his hand in the ensuing ruck to push the ball back.
Wilkinson knew points record was at stake
It was right in front of referee George Clancy and Yachvili trimmed the gap to three points.
Two minutes later France got the better of England at a scrum for the first time and the resulting penalty saw Yachvili level the scores.
It was a bad moment for Johnson's men because they also lost loose-head prop Andrew Sheridan, making his comeback after the back problem that kept him out of the Italy game, to a calf injury sustained in the scrum.
After England's early dominance France had come roaring back into the game, helped by a lack of composure from the hosts, and the travelling fans responded with a rousing chorus of La Marseillaise.
Les Bleus were also beginning to get the upper hand at the breakdown as England's reluctance to commit sufficient numbers began to cost them.
On the stroke of half-time Yachvili missed a long-range penalty that would have given the visitors the lead for the first time, but after England's problems in the first half, it was France's turn to struggle at the re-start at the beginning of the second half.
Tom Palmer - who went on to take man-of-the-match honours - charged down Yachvili's clearance to kick to set up a threatening position and although Mark Cueto was held just short of the line, when England swept the ball to the left, Foden showed pace and power to finish well.
Flood could not convert from the touchline but he nearly set up a second try almost immediately.
Half-time changes worked for England - Johnson
The England number 10 appeared to combine sweetly with Ben Youngs before the scrum-half sent Chris Ashton cruising over for what would have been his seventh try of the championship, but Flood's return pass to his Leicester team-mate was ruled to be forward, making Ashton's trademark swallow-dive superfluous.
Just as in the first quarter of the match, England were back in control, aided by committing more men to the breakdown.
They saw Flood limp off but Wilkinson came on to retake the Test points scoring record from New Zealand's Dan Carter, lifting his total to 1190 and giving England an eight-point lead with 30 minutes to play.
Once again indiscipline at the re-start from England gave France a shot at goal but Yachvili could only hit the woodwork.
Just before the hour mark the otherwise impressive Aurelien Rougerie knocked on as he tried to dot down a Francois Trinh-Duc grubber kick over the English line.
If either chance had gone France's way they could have been right back in the game but the luck was on England's side and the longer the game went on the more secure they looked.
Ashton butchered a chance with a wild pass after a typical break through the middle from a Wilkinson inside pass and Tindall had a late try disallowed for a double movement after a surging attack by the hosts.
But despite their inability to add to their total they kept France scoreless in the second half as Johnson's England moved within two victories of a Grand Slam.
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