Itoje Ends The French Grand Slam Bid

Itoje Ends The French Grand Slam Bid

Maro Itoje's late try ended France's Six Nations Grand Slam hopes as England secured a hard-fought 23-20 victory at Twickenham.

Fabien Galthie's men still have two games to play in this year's competition after a coronavirus outbreak led to their match with Scotland being postponed.


But next weekend they will host a Wales side seeking to wrap up the Grand Slam – a feat now out of reach for Les Bleus, who have not managed it since 2010, after a painful loss in London.

England, beaten by Scotland and Wales either side of a routine win over Italy, have been reduced to also-rans but refused to play that part on Saturday.

Despite taking the lead through Antoine Dupont's try after just 80 seconds, France were pegged back as Anthony Watson responded in kind and the reliable Owen Farrell added eight first-half points with the boot.


However, Damian Penaud applied the finish to a stunning France try before half-time, with Matthieu Jalibert and Owen Farrell exchanging penalties before Itoje stole the headlines at the death.

With nine wins from 10 previous home meetings with France in the Six Nations, including seven in a row, the history books heavily favoured England, but it did not look that way early on.


The visitors surged into the lead as the ever-alert Dupont touched down at the end of a sweeping move that had left England all at sea.

Eddie Jones' team immediately applied the pressure and got back on level terms as some swift and precise passing found Watson wide on the right, and he marked his 50th cap with a score from which Farrell converted.

Farrell kept his cool to slot two penalties and put England 13-7 up inside 20 minutes, but France cut the arrears with a Jalibert three-pointer before reclaiming the lead ahead of the break.

A fine try secured that half-time advantage, Penaud collecting a brilliant pass from Jalibert following an eye-catching Gael Fickou dummy to squeeze through in the corner after Galthie's men had sprung superbly from a lineout.

The second half was more of a tactical battle, with far fewer instances of flair and creativity; Jalibert and Farrell each splitting the posts before England had the decisive say in the closing minutes.

Itoje bundled over the line, the try awarded after a review as it was determined he had grounded the ball, breaking French hearts in the process.

England bounce back 

Much criticism has come England's way amid a meek showing at this year's Six Nations, but this was a fine response.

When Dupont put France ahead a little over a minute in – the 16th time in 19 Six Nations matches Les Bleus had grabbed the first try, and the ninth game in a row in which they had achieved the feat – it might have taken the wind out of England's sails, but to their credit they proved to be made of tougher stuff.

France can't shrug off Red Rose hoodoo

France overcame England 24-17 last year and stood on the brink of consecutive wins over their rivals, but that rare feat eluded them once again after Itoje's late show.

Not since 2006 have France won consecutive games against England, back then it was a three-game streak starting in 2004.

And this loss will really hurt, coming so late in the day and depriving them of a shot at the ultimate glory of a Grand Slam.

What's next?

France may be unwanted guests at someone else's Grand Slam party when they host Wales on Saturday, while England face a stern test as they travel to Dublin to take on Ireland.



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