England Under-20s showed their clinical nature as Richard Capstick scored with the final play to earn a dramatic 29-24 win over France Under-20s in Grenoble.
Having already scored two tries while down to 14 men, England then held their nerve in the final seconds as Capstick powered over with Les Bleuets having come from 12 points down to level.
Prior to that, England looked to have won it when Josh Hodge showed his pace and why he was an apprentice in Eddie Jones’ senior England side with a try from first phase, followed by another three minutes later from a loose ball by Tom Roebuck as the young England side swung the game their way despite winger Gabriel Hamer-Webb being in the bin.
France had led 12-10 when Hamer-Webb was sent to the bin for a tip tackle on Nolann Le Garrec, but by the time he returned, the visitors had opened up a 24-12 advantage.
France could have folded at that point, but fought back with a try from Jordan Joseph from close range, followed by a second by Ethan Dumortier to level the scores before Capstick’s late intervention.
England hit the lead early thanks to a penalty from Josh Hodge, quickly cancelled out by Joris Moura.
Les Bleuets were dominant at scrum-time, and able to turn that into points thanks to two further penalties from Moura.
But England were more clinical, and when Max Ojomoh broke through in midfield, he had Rus Tuima on his shoulder and the powerful No.8 forced his way over. Hodge converted to make it 10-9 and that was how it stayed until the break.
France came out with renewed resolve in the second half, and looked threatening with Tani Vili narrowly denied by brilliant defensive work from England hooker Theodore Dan.
They moved back in front with a penalty from Moura after Hamer-Webb tipped scrum-half Le Garrec.
However off the back of a scrum on halfway, England produced a brilliant strike move that sent Hodge through on the left, and he showed his pace and quick feet to go over. Manu Vunipola added the extras.
Three minutes later France tried to run from just inside their own half, but a misunderstanding ended in the hands of Roebuck who had a simple run under the posts.
France fought back with their scrum still dominant and off one shove from close range, Joseph forced his way over the line.
Cheikh Tiberghien converted and then put Dumortier over in the corner as he started to make a big impact.
With both teams down to 14 by this point because of the troublesome scrums, France pushed for the winning score.
But a knock-on in the England 22 allowed the visitors to recover the ball and go up the other end, with Capstick eventually powering over.