Expectations were high for an England side that won 13 out of 13 games last year. France always like to be party poopers against England and came ever so close to halting that winning run. They had a certain intent about them that the French side has lacked for the past few years. They took an early lead through the boot of Camille Lopez but ever reliable Owen Farrell responded with a long ranger of his own.
‘Les Blues’ were constantly pressurising the Red Roses; just battering away for phases at a time. The job at hand for England was made much harder when Gael Fickou was tipped onto his shoulder by Jonny May. Referee Angus Gardner looked at the incident and, along with the TMO, they decided the Gloucester wing merited a yellow card. Camille Lopez hit the penalty to push France ahead again as Eddie Jones and may looked on.
Lopez and Farrell exchanged kicks so France still maintained the lead but when Guilhem Guirado threw a forward pass, England forced a penalty from the scrum. It was a long way and only one man could do it… Elliot Daly stepped up and drilled it through the posted from about 50 metres. Somehow, England were drawing at halftime.
Eddie Jones must have said some strong word at halftime because England came out the block firing. Straight from the off, Owen Farrell ran an amazing line and burst threw the French defensive line. He then proceeded to throw a superb pass on the run to Elliot Daly who didn’t have to slow down. The pass was on the money and Daly nearly got in for the game’s first try but for a great Noah Nakaitaci cover tackle. The Wasps flyler’s foot had just scraped the touchline. Close but no cigar. But Farrell did strike a penalty to put England ahead.
The men in blue had slowed down and looked as they were beginning to tire until the replacements came flooding in. Replacement prop Rabah Slimani was the eventual try scorer when offloads became too much for England to handle and the gaps opened up. Lopez converted again and suddenly the balance of the game seemed to have swung.
Replacements turned out to be a critical part of the game and when England brought on numerous replacements, the pace went up again. James Haskell smashed through multiple tackles along with Ben Te’o carving up the pitch. Te’o was making his Six Nations debut and it seemed fitting for him to score. Owen Farrell had been exceptional in the second half and he played the quick, flat ball to the bustling former-rugby league man who dived over in style. Farrell converted and the English held out for a scrappy victory over one of their bitter rivals. Despite the loss, France still played extremely well and can take alot of positives into the rest of the tournament.