England remain unbeaten in the 2011 6 Nations following a tense match at Twickenham as both side’s threatened to take the lead amongst a personal kicking battle between England’s Toby Flood and France’s Dimitri Yachvili.
The first half shot by as Flood and Yachvili battled away, with the sides going in deadlocked at 9-9, although Yachvili could have put Les Bleu into the lead as the clock hot 40 minutes with a near fifty metre penalty attempt from wide right. Although the Biarritz scrum-half’s kick had the legs it was lacking accuracy as he watched the ball slide agonisingly past the left upright.
The deadlock was broken shortly after the break as Ben Foden, England’s full-back, scored in the corner. Ben Young’s released Flood who straightened at the French line from ten metres out before passing out to Mark Cueto. Cueto juggled the pass behind him as Foden ghosted past and collected the ball to patter through three French tackles.
Flood missed the resulting conversion, his first miss of the tournament to date, to keep the away side in the match just five points and one score behind.
Although England could have piled on the pressure as they were camped on the French line for a second time just minutes later before losing the ball on the line, so could France have got back into the match as well. Aurelien Rougerie looked to collect a grubber on the England line but the ball floated tantalisingly over his head as he dived in for a certain score.
Again France could have been released; Francois Trinh-Duc fly-hacked the ball down field with Foden out of position following the previous attack, however the France fly-half could not connect a second time, the ball falling into touch as Cueto looked to get back and cover.
England furthered their lead through a penalty on 50 minutes as Jonny Wilkinson, on for the injured Flood moments earlier, slotted from forty metres before Frances two chances presented themselves.
Martin Johnson’s could have scored again as the match ticked on, Chris Ashton, the scorer of six tries already this campaign, broke the French line and was one on one with Clement Poitrenaud, the French fullback. The Northampton man had options left and right and chose left just as Yoann Huget appeared to snatch the long looping pass out of the air.
As the match came to an end Tom Palmer appeared with the ball in his hands with England on the attack once again under the shadow of the French posts in a win that England deserved as they heaped on the pressure throughout, even if France also looked electric at times. It was a telling sign that, contrary to so many matches that are won by a tight margin, it was not the opposition mounting a last ditch attack as the referee blew the final whistle, but England looking to cement their position in the match.
England now go on to face Scotland at Twickenham next weekend, a match that if the red rose side win, they will not only claim the Calcutta Cup, but also be just one more win from the unmentionable.