|France U18 25|
|Tries: Fiku, Kros, DuPont Against: Jaminet 2 Pens: Jaminet 2|
|England (6) 13|
|Tries: Steward Against: Smith Pen: Smith 2|
France advanced to their first Grand Slam in 12 years by making three attempts to comfortable England in front of the cheering Stade de France.
Gael Ficou and François Cros’ attempts gave the hosts a significant lead at half-time and allowed England to play catch-up in the Six Nations final.
England’s Freddie Steward, deployed on the wing, stepped forward and scored a goal after Joe Marchant’s break after the break.
But it was a rare moment of danger from England, who was kept at arm’s length.
Not long after, France captain Antoine Dupont dived under the sticks and the hosts played the last 10 minutes in comfort, with their fans starting the party.
The Marseillaise echoed through the stands, and tricolors fluttered over every seat as the clocks were shown in red in the final bout.
A strike by Gregory Aldritt into the stands moments later was the signal for his team to drop to their knees and enjoy the clean win that had been brewing for the past two campaigns.
England finished third in the Six Nations, but this contest revealed a chasm separating them from the champions.
France excelled them in every field. Stronger in front, more accurate in the rear, tighter in defense, more accurate in attack.
For England, defeat is a sobering reality check. The start of the Rugby World Cup is still 18 months away, but to close the gap to France in that time, a quick and dramatic improvement is needed.
At the Stade de France, he was almost invisible. A campaign that began with Scotland strangling Eddie Jones’ side ended with their defeat in Paris with very few positives between them.
France hunts for the stars in the stadium
England creaked long before the opening of the account. Fickou tapped as a complex pre-planned move opened a hole for him, before Jonathan Danti’s offload fell to a dangerous shattered counterattack.
The luck of the guests could not resist. France duly took possession of the ball and the match. A dart from Gabin Villiers down the left flank put the English defense out of action, and a misguided pass from Romain Ntamack ran into an undefended Fica who dived to the opposite flank.
England’s heavy tactics sometimes worked. Twice in the first half, Freddie Steward chased the hooves of Marcus Smith and managed to win the dogfight.
But on both occasions, France failed faster to pass the ball and contain the momentum. The rest of the bombardment was greedily swallowed up by cornerback Melvin Jaminet and his two wings.
The threat to France was never far from the surface, but England looked in vain for a way through the defenses.
The visitors were rarely going to put in a series of profitable phases to increase the pressure, and only kept within reach thanks to a pair of Smith’s penalties ahead of the break.
Kroes ensured the difference between the teams was better reflected on the scoreboard thanks to the break as he reached out to make it 18-6 after Fico intercepted the ball with one hand and sent Villiers to the run.
England’s hard work suddenly, unexpectedly paid off early in the second half. Marchand punched a hole, Smith and Henry Slade teamed up to pass the ball off target, and Steward stepped inside Ntamak’s cover and scored.
Smith sold the ball from the sideline. The gap was reduced to five points.
Perhaps it was because of this that the Stade de France began to get nervous. The players may have been under pressure to end the drought at the Grand Slams. Although this generation is different. Just like when Ireland threatened a comeback in the second round, they found another pass.
Number eight Aldritt chose and rounded the edge and passed the ball to Dupont, whom he had played with from time to time since they were boys in the small southern club in Osh.
Dupont, the world’s best player of the year, did the rest, ignoring two invaders in his path.
They are both now stars on the biggest stage. Few will bet against them or their team for the biggest prize when France hosts the Rugby World Cup next year.
Man of the match – Gael Fico.
“Two wins are unacceptable for England” – the best reaction
Former England wing Hugo Monnier live on Radio 5: “Third place is a fair reflection of England’s position. Will the fans be disappointed? Absolutely.
“This England team has been in a boom or bust cycle. Last year was a clear decline, but to back it up with the same number of wins, for the level of players we have, for our player pool, financial support. we have and we have a coach, it’s just not good enough.
“This is simply unacceptable.
“France is ahead of every other team in this competition. They have brilliant style. They have a flair for work speed and fitness, but they also lack those big moments that have cost them over the years.”
Former England midfielder Matt Dawson live on BBC Radio 5: “DuPont isn’t even halfway through his career yet and oh my god he’s only going to get better and better.
“He’s one of those, no matter what sport it is, the best players make it look like they’re playing in slow motion.”
“We wanted to write our names into history”
Scrum half and captain of France Antoine Dupont said: “This is our third tournament together as a team. We were very close twice, so we know how difficult it is to win.
“We wanted to write our place in history.
“Of course we are thinking about the World Cup next year, we are discussing it among ourselves, but for now we will enjoy the Grand Slam tournament, and we will start thinking about the World Cup later.”
France team manager Rafael Ibanezto ITV: “Twelve years is a very, very long time and it was a tense final game, but we have a fantastic group of players.
“We thought we needed to hang on and play fair with England, but they were trying to break us down.”
The best of pictures
France: Jaminet; Peno, Fico, Danti, Villiers; Ntamak, DuPont; Bayle, Marchand, Atonio, Woki, Willemse, Kros, Jelonch, Aldritt.Substitutions: Ramos for Jamine (76), Luca for Dupont (76), Gro for Baia (49), Mauvaka for Marchant (49), Hauasa for Atonio (54), Flament for Voki (71), Taofifenua for Willemse (49), Cretin for Kros (71).England: Furbank; Steward, Marchand, Slade, Nowell; Smith, Youngs; Genge, George, Stewart, Itoye, Izikwe, Lowes, Underhill, Simmonds.
Substitutions: Ford for Furbank (76), Daley for Nowell (25), Randall for Youngs (64), Marler for Genge (64), Sinclair for Stewart (49), Chessum for Isiekwe (61), Dombrandt for Underhill (64).