Above – big Phil Vickery gets bitch-slapped by Dimitri Szarzewski
England 15 – France 21
Because this English pack is a monstrous one, weighing in at 142 stones. The French pack, no pigmies themselves, could only muster 133 stones. And in the tight it showed. The French line-out got turned over in the first half, and their scrum, never looking comfortable, got smashed even on their own ball.
But the French, at times surviving on around 35% possession, showed their class on the ball and in defence (two qualities the Wallabies also share). The class with ball in hand resulted in two tries for Les Bleus versus none for the home side.
The first, a backs oriented try that Pelous managed to get on the end of, had both fast men (Rougerie) running hard and straight through the middle, followed by slick hands putting width on the ball and the lantern jawed second rower over in the corner. The match winning try (see here) was another example of how to use space and power, with a rampaging ‘Captain Caveman’ Chabal running surprisingly silkily with the ball in two hands, and then shrugging off three tackles to drive over the line.
These demonstrations of what to do with quick the ball away from the ruck was in stark contrast to what England could muster. For the second week running they squandered scoring opportunities out wide. Their only real try scoring opportunity being snuffed out with a spine-splintering tackle from replacement hooker Szarzewski stopping the 19 stone, 6’3″ prop dead in his tracks (see clip above).
The termination of this movement was the turning point of the game and displayed England’s key weakness; the inability to penetrate against a world class defence. And what a defence it was, the veteran Betsen seemingly around the ankles of every second tackle.
While this seems to leave England with a headache before Marseilles next Saturday, it should be pointed out that the lynch-pin in their game plan – Johny Wilkinson – was on the bench until the 78th minute. Such experience and ability to marshal England’s forward power could well have stolen this game for the home side. They should definitely not be written off just yet.
ENGLAND 15 (Penalties – Barkley (4); Field goal – Gomarsal)
FRANCE 21 (Tries – Pelous, Chabal; Penalties – Skrela (2), Elissalde; Conversion – Elissalde)
Referee: Alan Lewis (Irl)
Crowd: 63,667 at Twickenham
ENGLAND: Nick Abendanon (Bath); Paul Sackey (Wasps), Jamie Noon (Newcastle), Mike Catt (London Irish, capt), Josh Lewsey (Wasps); Olly Barkley (Bath), Shaun Perry (Bristol); Lawrence Dallaglio (Wasps), Joe Worsley (Wasps), James Haskell (Wasps); Ben Kay (Leicester), Simon Shaw (Wasps); Matt Stevens (Bath), Mark Regan (Bristol), Andrew Sheridan (Sale)
Replacements: Jonny Wilkinson (Newcastle), Andy Gommarsall (Harlequins), Martin Corry (Leicester), Lee Mears (Bath), Phil Vickery (Wasps)
FRANCE: Clement Poitrenaud (Toulouse), Vincent Clerc (Toulouse), David Marty (Perpignan), Damien Traille (Biarritz), Aurelien Rougerie (Clermont), David Skrela (Stade Francais), Pierre Mignoni (Clermont), Remy Martin (Stade Francais), Julien Bonnaire (Bourgoin/Clermont), Serge Betsen (Biarritz) Jerome Thion (Biarritz), Fabien Pelous (Toulouse), Jean-Baptiste Poux (Toulouse), Raphael Ibanez (Wasps, capt), Olivier Milloud (Bourgoin)
Replacements: Dimitri Szarzewski (Stade Francais), Nicolas Mas (Perpignan), Sebastien Chabal (Sale), Yannick Nyanga (Toulouse), Jean-Baptiste Elissalde (Toulouse), Frederic Michalak (Toulouse) Unused: Cedric Heymans (Toulouse)