France steal victory from England in Six Nations

France scored a late Gael Fickou try to snatch a 26-24 victory over England in their Six Nations Championship opener at the Stade de France in Paris on Saturday

England recovered from a disastrous start as they conceded a try 32 seconds into the match after failing to gather the ball from the kick off.

England then suffered another setback when they conceded a second try minutes later.

However England’s Bulldog spirit came through and although their handling let them down several times they worked their way back into the match.

The turning point came shortly before half time when Mike Brown powered through three tackles to score in the corner. His first international try for England.

England missed a drop goal attempt shortly before half time which would have got them with five points but the kick was missed.

After the break England came out on fire and took control of the match. Danny Care almost got England’s second try but his effort was ruled short.

Luther Burrell who was making his England debut powered through the French backline to score England’s second try which with the converison put the visitors into the lead for the first time.

However four minutes from time Yannick Nyanga slipped off a tackle and created one of the few breaks for France which ended with Gael Fickou scoring under the posts and allowing France to steal the match.

The result is France’s first victory over England since the 2011 Rugby World
Cup finals.

France looked to have blown it after two Yoann Huget tries had given them a
16-3 lead midway through the first half, only for Mike Brown – with his first
try in 22 England matches – and Luther Burrell, on his debut, to cross the white
wash and help England to a five-point lead with just three minutes left.

In the build-up France coach Philippe Saint-Andre laughed off suggestions his
team were favourites for the championship, given they finished last in a miserable
2013 in which they lost eight out of 11 matches.

Yet this win will add weight to the suggestion that Les Bleus are favourites
in a post-British and Irish Lions tour year, having won the championship on
the last four such occasions.

England’s other debutant, wing Jack Nowell made a disastrous start as France
opened the scoring after just 32 seconds.

Nowell dropped the kick-off from France’s own debutant Jules Plisson and the
French were quick to strike as Plisson’s deflected kick ahead deceived Brown,
allowing Huget to take the ball in his stride and dive over in the corner.

Scrum-half Jean-Marc Doussain missed the conversion and on six minutes Owen
Farrell kicked a penalty after France were penalised for not rolling away to
bring the score back to 5-3.

A penalty from Doussain on 11 minutes extended France’s lead before Huget scored
again on 16 minutes.

Tom Wood lost the ball in the tackle and France struck with lightning efficiency,
going wide right where Huget took on Goode on the outside and fed Brice Dulin
inside. His chip ahead bounced awkwardly, deceiving Nowell and Goode before
dropping into Huget’s arms to score in the corner again.

Doussain missed the conversion but kicked his second penalty on 23 minutes
and France led 16-3.

England were struggling to get into the match but did have their chances, although
Goode spilled the ball five yards from the line after a clever break down the

England refocussed on their strengths and battered away at the French defence
with their forwards before a quick tap penalty from a kickable position by scrum-half
Danny Care took England to within sight of the tryline.

The ball was sent left and Brown stepped inside Huget and held off tackles
from locks Pascal Pape and Alexandre Flanquart to touch down, although Farrell

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