France stun England at the death in Six Nations opener
Confidence restored after last year’s wooden spoon
With dramatic first and last tries, France stole a 26-24 win over England on Saturday to restore some Six Nations confidence in a team shaken by last year’s wooden spoon embarrassment.
Right winger Yoann Huget scored the first try after 30 seconds and, after England rallied from 16-3 down to lead 24-19 with four minutes left, center Gael Fickou collected a pass from fellow substitute Dimitri Szarzewski after the hooker made a superb run down the left. Fickou cut inside his marker and ran round behind the posts. Maxime Machenaud kicked the extras.
“We were the first to shoot and the last to shoot,” France coach Philippe Saint-Andre said.
“In the second half we really struggled physically and missed a lot of tackles. But the watchword was to never ease up. In terms of confidence and for 2014 it’s a very important win. We caused the English quite a few problems in the first half. But they attacked us through the middle and made it very hard for us in that zone.”
With a third win in their last 12 tests, France should avert the wooden spoon with Italy next up at home.
“Last year we had a lot of setbacks, but that’s also what unites a team,” captain Pascal Pape said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the players smiling like that in the dressing room. So let’s savor it tonight and go back to work tomorrow.”
England, runners-up in the last two Six Nations, travel to Scotland next weekend.
“Having got ourselves back in the game, to lose from that position was very disappointing,” England coach Stuart Lancaster said. “It was a great performance in lots of ways. Once we get away from the initial disappointment we’ll take a lot of positives from the game.”
Lancaster gave “credit to the French team for how they created the opportunity from inside their own half” but underlined his team’s need to limit mistakes.
“Games are never won or lost in one moment,” he said. “Everything matters at this level.”