The Borneo Post (Sabah)
Machenaud steers France past England, hands Six Nations to Ireland
PARIS: Maxime Machenaud steered France to a dour 2216 victory over England on Saturday, a result that saw Ireland crowned Six Nations champions.
England went into the game knowing that only a bonuspoint victory would prevent the Irish, with four wins from four after an earlier 28-8 triumph over Scotland, winning the championship.
But Eddie Jones’ team didn’t play like a side needing to score four tries to force a championship decider in a Twickenham head-to-head next week.
“While we’re all disappointed, we’re all gutted, we’ve got to make sure we learn from it and make sure we’re stronger next time we play,” Jones told the BBC.
“It’s a learning period for us. We’re struggling with our game a little bit and we’re learning from these games. It’s an important period for us.”
France captain Guilhem Guirado said the result was just rewards for their hard work and a sign of the team’s unity, having bounced back from two opening tournament defeats.
“I think 80,000 people came tonight, it’s a really emotional feeling because it’s always nice to beat England,” Guirado told French TV.
“France has gone through a tough time,” added head coach Jacques Brunel. “I believe we can come very close to the best.
“Against both Ireland (lost 15-13 in the last minute) and England, we’ve shown we can go up against them and we will continue to do so.”
There was a distinct lack of English penetration under a stifling French defence, the much-hyped George Ford-Owen Farrell axis was ineffectual and there were a myriad of mistakes in key areas.
A tight opening half was a nervy affair littered with infringements, be they by France at the scrum or England at the breakdown.
The French defence was solid, with giant centre Mathieu Bastareaud a real handful in the loose, and England’s blunt-looking attack was unable to stretch the home side wide.
Farrell opened the scoring with a 38-metre penalty after Rabah Slimani was pinged by South African referee Jaco Peyper for collapsing a scrum.