6N: England loses to France 22-16 and relinquishes title
SAINT-DENIS, France (AP) — Defending champion England conceded the Six Nations title to Ireland after losing to France 22-16 on Saturday.
England’s bid to win a third straight championship collapsed with a second away loss in the Six Nations for the first time in nine years.
After falling to Scotland at Murrayfield, England started at Stade de France knowing Ireland would be crowned champion unless it could beat the French with a four-tries bonus point.
But the English were sloppy, uninspired in attack, and dominated at the breakdown. They gave away 16 penalties, missed 16 tackles, and were turned over nine times. They crossed the line once, when Jonny May touched down with seven minutes left, and failed to see a chance in the final seconds.
“It’s just a tough period for us at the moment. Any team that is developing, as we are, gets through these tough periods when the game does not love you,” England coach Eddie Jones said. “We were beaten at the breakdown, we gave away too many penalties, and when we had the momentum we didn’t score, whereas they did.”
Maxime Machenaud converted four penalties and replacement flyhalf Lionel Beauxis added another for the French, who were awarded a penalty try to break a 9-9 deadlock in the 49th minute.
It was the Tricolors’ first win over England in four years in the championship, and a welcome respite. Just last month they had gone eight matches without a win.
“I wanted the team to be close to the best during the tournament,” France coach Jacques Brunel said. “We came close against Ireland, (and) this time things turned out well for us. On both occasions, we were there.”
Dominated early when they were made to pay for their mistakes, the French turned things around in the second half thanks to ill-discipline by England.
Back from the dressing room, England launched a gritty attack but it was stymied by a brilliant tackle from center Mathieu Bastareaud on prop Mako Vunipola.
France came back with a move ignited by captain Guilhem Guirado, who took them into the English 22. Flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc kicked the ball high into the left corner, the ball fell for Benjamin Fall, but he was high-tackled by England fullback Anthony Watson.
Referee Jaco Peyper awarded a penalty try, sin-binned Watson, and France had rallied from 9-3 down.
France had another excellent chance soon after but Gael Fickou was stopped before the line after Remy Grosso broke the defense.
Machenaud made it 19-9 with his fourth penalty kick in the 63rd minute after England conceded for holding on.
Then England reduced the gap to 19-16 with a superb try. Elliot Daly collected the ball out wide and found May inside for the try, which was converted by Owen Farrell.
But England gave away yet another penalty and Beauxis kicked it. Beauxis failed to find touch in injury time to extend some suspense. In front of the French posts, the England backs were poised for an overlap but a knock-on in a ruck finally ended the match and England’s two-year reign.
More worrying for England, it has scored only two tries over its last two matches.
“We’ll have to look how we can be more clinical,” stand-in captain Farrell said.
England hosts Ireland next week at Twickenham, where Joe Schmidt’s team will play for the Grand Slam.
France travels to Wales for the final round.