Sunday Mar 12, 2023
TWICKENHAM: France, the current Six Nations champions, delivered a devastating blow to England by inflicting their most severe home defeat in history, with an impressive 53-10 win at Twickenham on Saturday.
An utterly dominant France ended their 18-year wait for a Six Nations success at Twickenham in style by running in seven tries t end any lingering hopes of an England title triumph.
England were 27-3 behind at half-time -- their highest interval deficit at Twickenham -- and things went from bad to worse for the hosts as they suffered a second defeat in four matches under coach Steve Borthwick.
France’s Thibault Flament, Charles Ollivon and Damien Penaud all crossed England’s line twice after Thomas Ramos, who scored 23 points in all, went over for the opening five-pointer.
A gap of 43 points exceeded the 35-point margin England had given up in a 42-6 defeat by South Africa at Twickenham in 2008.
It was also England’s third worst loss anywhere following a 76-0 hammering by Australia in Brisbane in 1998 and a 2007 58-10 reverse against the Springboks in Bloemfontein.
Victory gave World Cup hosts France their biggest-winning margin over England, surpassing the 25-point gap achieved in both a 1972 37-12 success and a 31-6 triumph in 2006.
Both of those victories came in Paris, whereas the previous biggest win France had managed in defeating England at Twickenham was a mere eight points in an 11-3 success back in 1951.
France’s win on Saturday was all the more impressive given the rainswept conditions in southwest London.
And it maintained their hopes of a successful title defence following a second-round defeat by Grand Slam-chasing Ireland that ended Les Bleus’ 14-match winning streak against all opponents.
"I’ve been coming to Twickenham for a long while, 20 years. I realise. It’s emotional... For us, it means we’re for real," said tearful France coach Fabien Galthie.
France captain Antoine Dupont added: "I think we’re finding it hard to realise when you see the scoreboard. 53-10 at Twickenham in the den of rugby. It will remain historic."
Borthwick, by contrast, admitted: "There is a gap, a big gap between us and the best teams in the world," with new captain Ellis Genge adding: "I am not going to sugar coat it. That is one of our worst performances."
The pre-match build-up had been dominated by Borthwick’s to drop captain Owen Farrell to the bench and start Marcus Smith at fly-half in a team now led for the first time by prop Genge.
But before Smith or Genge could exert any influence on the match, France were 10-0 ahead after just five minutes.
Thriving on early turnover ball, France needed just two minutes to open the scoring with a well-worked try.
Back-row Ollivon and lock Flament opened up England’s defence with two excellent offloads.
Left wing Ethan Dumortier continued the attack with a surging run before releasing Ramos for the full-back’s third try of the tournament.
Ramos converted his own score and soon afterwards added a penalty.
France are a far more settled side than England, who were playing just their fourth match since Borthwick succeeded the sacked Eddie Jones as coach, and that showed as Les Bleus won a succession of turnovers.
Les Bleus extended their lead with a superbly executed try in the 26th minute after scrum-half Dupont’s brilliant left-footed 50-22 kick set up a line-out that led to Flament powering over from close range.
England eventually scored through a Smith penalty only for Ramos to respond in kind.
And on the stroke of half-time, France had their third try.
The platform came from a solid scrum, with No 8 Gregory Alldritt releasing Ollivon, who powered over the line.
England eventually managed a try when replacement scrum-half Alex Mitchell released full-back Freddie Steward.
By now Borthwick had rung several changes, with Farrell replacing outside centre Henry Slade.
But it made little difference, the bounce of Dupont’s chip-kick over the top defeating England’s defence but falling kindly for Flament as he scored a 57th-minute try.
And three minutes later, France crossed England’s line for a fifth time, with Ollivon ruled to have grounded the ball following a lengthy review.
Despite the driving rain, Ramos drilled the conversion and there was still time for wing Penaud to add two more tries.