Written by James Price
A 78th-minute try saw France recover to claim a 26-24 victory over England in a breathless Six Nations clash at the Stade de France on Saturday.
France led 16-8 at the interval thanks to two early tries from Yoann Huget before Mike Brown scored just before the break to keep England in the contest.
An incredible comeback from England saw a 16-3 advantage for France at the end of the first quarter turn into 16-21 in England’s favour going into the final 20 minutes, as Luther Burrell touched down and Danny Care slotted a drop goal.
France produced the best half-hour of the Philippe Saint-André era to start the game but progressively ran out of steam against an England side that went from strength to strength.
It was the home team that would have the last laugh though as a Gael Fickou try at the death sealed a memorable win.
France dominated at scrum time but England will harbour a number of regrets having seen their pack take the game by the scruff of the neck and dominating most of the second half.
France got off to the perfect start when Huget latched onto a grubber from debutant fly-half Jules Plisson, stepped past the wrong-footed Mike Brown and raced home after just 32 seconds.
Jean-Marc Doussain missed the conversion, Owen Farrell pulled a penalty back for England before Doussain hit the target with his second kick at goal to leave France 8-3 ahead at the end of a frantic opening ten minutes.
The pace didn’t slow though as Huget bagged his second try of the first quarter. The French wing beat a poor tackle from Alex Goode before passing inside to Brice Dulin, whose chip ahead bounced favourably for his flying team-mate.
Again Doussain missed the conversion but found the mark shortly afterwards as France’s superiority at scrum time earned a penalty that gave the hosts a 16-3 lead.
England finished the half strongly however, and Brown’s try just before the break kept his team alive. Care took the bold decision to run a very kickable penalty but he linked with Billy Vunipola and Brown beat three defenders, stretching an arm out over the whitewash in the corner.
Farrell missed the conversion but England came out of the dressing room after the interval breathing fire.
Care was denied a try when he was held inches short of the line but Farrell reduced the gap to five points with penalty.
England drew level after Vunipola bust through the French defence for the umpteenth time, offloading to Burrell, who could cruise in under the sticks.
Farrell’s conversion gave England the lead for the first time as France’s fast start seemed like a distant memory.
A cheeky drop-goal from Care ensured England got something in return for their sustained pressure as the hosts’ composure disintegrated.
Maxime Machenaud and Goode traded penalties but although England clearly held the upper hand, they were unable to land the killer blow as Tom Youngs failed to find his jumpers at a five-metre lineout, letting a golden opportunity slip by.
With the game hanging in the balance, Dimitri Szarzewski bolted into space, held his line before finding Fickou, who dummied past Goode to score behind the posts and leave Machenaud with an easy conversion.Tweet