Six Nations 2015: England 55-35 France

By Tom FordyceChief sports writer at Twickenham
Six Nations 2015: England anguish despite 55-35 win against France
England (27) 55
Tries: B Youngs (2), Watson, Ford, Nowell (2), B Vunipola Con: Ford (7) Pen: Ford (2)
France: (15) 35
Tries: Tillous-Borde, Nakaitaci, Mermoz, Debaty, Kayser Con: Plisson (2) Pens: Plisson, Kockott

England fell one try short of a first Six Nations title in four years as they out-ran France in a sensational 12-try contest.

Needing to win by 26 points to deny Ireland, they attacked relentlessly in a chaotic, thrilling match and so nearly pulled off a remarkable win.

A brace of tries apiece from Ben Youngs and Jack Nowell plus scores from Anthony Watson, George Ford and Billy Vunipiola saw them pile up their highest ever score against France, while the visitors' total was only the second time in Six Nations history that a team has scored 30 points or more and lost.

But while the win put them level on points with Ireland and Wales, their inferior points difference means they finish second for the fourth year in a row.

And Stuart Lancaster's men will be left ruing their profligacy last weekend against Scotland, when six clear try-scoring opportunities were blown.

Six Nations records tumble
27 Tries in a single day
55Points scored by England against France
40 Points scored by Ireland in an away match
7Tries scored in one half by Wales

They had come tearing out of the traps, Jonathan Joseph stepping through midfield after his forwards made a mess of an opposition scrum, Mike Brown supporting down the right to find Ford stepping off the wing and Youngs spinning through the final tackle to dive over.

Ford added a difficult conversion before Plisson struck back with a penalty, and when England lost the ball at an attacking ruck Sebastien Tillous-Borde found himself racing away with only Dan Cole for company to put France 8-7 ahead.

Six Nations 2015: Stuart Lancaster hails courageous England

It got worse for the home side when they lost possession in the French 22. Les Bleus spread the ball right at pace, Scott Spedding and Gael Fickou isolated Brown and Noa Nakaitaci galloped clear down the left to touch down behind the posts just before his boot landed beyond the dead ball line.

Plisson landed the conversion to extend the lead to eight points and Twickenham - which had literally been shaking after five minutes - was stunned.

England fought back. First Ford struck a sweet penalty, then Youngs sprinted half the length of the field, James Haskell profited from some ping-pong at the breakdown and Anthony Watson touched down in the corner.

It was breathless stuff, and Joseph's brilliance then lit the stadium up again.

From under his own posts he scythed a curving line through the French line and beyond halfway before kicking ahead.

Burrell could not gather but with a penalty coming England tapped and went, and Youngs span out of two more tackles to dive over the line.


How stunning Six Nations finale unfolded

Six Nations montage with Sam Warburton, Paul O'Connell and Stuart Lancaster with Billy Vunipola
It was a day of drama and extreme emotions for Wales, Ireland and England
  • In first game Wales only lead 14-13 against Italy at half-time
  • But seven second-half tries see them win 61-20 and go top
  • Ireland need a 21-point win over Scotland and lead 20-10 at the break
  • Ireland go on to win 40-10, putting Wales out of the running
  • England chase a 26-point win over France to take title
  • France lead 15-7 after 18 minutes in a remarkable game
  • England recover to win 55-35, but the trophy ends up in Irish hands

Ford's penalty on the stroke of half-time made it 27-15, but immediately after the re-start he put a kick out on the full and France, after a series of punishing drives, put Maxime Mermoz through.

Back came England again. Youngs ghosted through a huge hole, drew the cover and sent Ford away for the day's seventh try.

It was the outstanding Youngs who set up the eighth, darting down the blindside before Ford's quick hands gave Jack Nowell the smallest gap to wriggle through and extend the lead to 16 points.

Haskell found himself in the sin-bin for a stupid trip and it cost his side both momentum and precious points when France again went the length of the pitch through Mermoz and Nakaitaci before from nowhere the loose-head prop Vincent Debaty appeared on the winger's shoulder to rumble into the corner.

It was fantasy rugby, scarcely credible stuff. Billy Vunipola smashed over for 48-30 - eight points shy of the magic margin - but within seconds France's forwards had shoved Benjamin Kayser over.

With 13 minutes to go 13 points were needed, even the replacements exhausted by the extraordinary pace.

With five minutes left it became even simpler - a converted try - when Nowell ripped through for his second.

England attacked in frenzied waves. With 30 seconds left they drove a line-out into the corner and hammered to within a foot of the line. But France won the penalty, and a wonderful effort had fallen agonisingly short.

Ireland fans
Ireland fans stayed behind after their team's win over Scotland at Murrayfield to watch England's meeting with France on the big screen
Noa Nakaitaci
Noa Nakaitaci was adjudged to have stayed in play to score his try by video official Ben Skeen
Ben Youngs celebrates scoring against France
Ben Youngs scored his 10th and 11th international tries in the first half
France fans at Twickenham
France fans have seen their side win only once at Twickenham in the Six Nations since 1997
Prince Harry at Twickenham
Prince Harry - the honorary president of England 2015 Rugby World Cup - was in attendance at Twickenham

England: Brown, Watson, Joseph, Burrell, Nowell, Ford, B. Youngs, Marler, Hartley, Cole, Parling, Lawes, Haskell, Robshaw, B. Vunipola.

Replacements: Cipriani for Watson (63), Twelvetrees for Burrell (73), Wigglesworth for B. Youngs (73), M. Vunipola for Marler (63), T. Youngs for Hartley (53), Brookes for Cole (63), Easter for Parling (68), Wood for Haskell (68).

Sin Bin: Haskell (57).

France: Spedding, Huget, Fickou, Mermoz, Nakaitaci, Plisson, Tillous-Borde, Debaty, Guirado, Mas, Flanquart, Maestri, Dusautoir, Le Roux, Goujon.

Replacements: Bastareaud for Mermoz (73), Tales for Plisson (73), Kockott for Tillous-Borde (48), Kayser for Guirado (47), Atonio for Mas (47), Chouly for Goujon (63).

Not Used: Slimani, Taofifenua.

Att: 82,319

Ref: Nigel Owens (Wales).

Match stats
3 (0)Scrums won (lost)5 (2)
10 (1)Line-outs won (lost)7 (2)
8Pens conceded11
73 (2)Rucks/mauls won (lost)99 (9)
36Kicks from hand31
150 (24)Tackles made (missed)112 (22)
599Metres made747
8Line breaks9
Provided by Accenture