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Le Crunch Is Over
England Win The Key Match
Posted Mar 01, 2011 by Shaun Edwards
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There have been far more glamorous and certainly more exciting performances in the world of English rugby, no doubt. However, there can have been few that were quite as satisfying as this excellent but scrappy victory over the French team that ended the visitors’ eight match unbeaten run in the Six Nations. England were not at the same level as they were during their demolition of Italy, but you can be sure they will still be very happy with the result. It is, after all, the behaviour of champions to get the win despite not playing amazingly well.
Marc Lievremont had noted before the match that both he and the majority of the other nations in the tournament shared a mutual camaraderie as a result of disliking the English, but you can put a fair bet on the fact that he wasn’t feeling quite so affectionate towards the Irish following the four penalisations that his team received in the opening fifteen minutes by the Irish referee George Clancy, especially given that Toby Flood converted three of them into points.
Whilst it wasn’t amazing, England’s performance did still have several positives: Ben Foden certainly attacked with some panache and James Haskell was power personified for most the match. France certainly had far more control over the opening forty minutes, though, and were seemingly far more likely to take the lead as the first half ended. England did indeed seemed saved by the bell.
The home team, though, came out from the dressing room looking like an entirely different side, re-obtaining the lead within ninety seconds of the restart, Foden bursting past a poorly timed tackle from Trinh-Duc. It was a mistake the Frenchman will not want to see again in a hurry.
Following the sudden, unexpected deficit, France began to look very short of ideas and were unable to break through a tough England backline, Haskell, Deacon, Wood and Palmer all did their part in the ‘who can most resemble a brick wall’ competition. When England introduced Jonny Wilkinson – who promptly broke the record for record international point scorer with a 45 metre penalty – the game seemed more or less lost, the only really noteworthy fact being the absolutely humungous roar that greeted England’s now reserve fly-half. It really was a thunderous ovation, showing that English rugby fans have far longer memories than many might accuse them of.
In the end, once France’s plan A of power and strength had failed, they looked conspicuously short of a plan B. Whilst England will doubtless receive a sterner challenge from those opponents down under, this was nonetheless a great result in advance of the World Cup later in the year.