France edge past England
February 13, 2005
Dimitri Yachvili kicks the winning penalty at Twickenham
© Getty Images
France's Dimitri Yachvili booted his side to their first victory at Twickenham since 1997 as England were left to once again rue the missing kicking ability of a certain Jonny Wilkinson.
On a blustery day in south west London Andy Robinson's side were looking to get their campaign back on track but after dominating the opening period they were left to reflect on what should have been as they crashed to their second successive defeat in this year's Championship.
France turned this game on its head in the second half, and although both sides missed countless opportunites with the boot it was England who paid the ultimate price for not putting points on the board when offered the chance.
Three missed penalties a piece for Charlie Hodgson and Ollie Barkley, and a wayward drop goal attempt from the England No.10 meant France were let off the hook in a game in which they looked beat.
The opening moments proved to serve as an indicator for the story of the game when Hodgson missed his first shot at goal and scrum-half Yachvili made no mistake when offered a similar chance minutes later.
The contest, played out on a surprisingly far from pristine pitch, was as fierce as was expected with both sides out to confine lacklustre displays last weekend to the history books.
And it was England who stamped their authority on the game, taking the attack to their French visitors, although flanker Marton Corry was lucky to escape the sin-bin when he clattered into fullback Pepito Elhorga in the early exchanges.
The pressure paid off when Ollie Barkley benefitted from some good work from his centre partner Jamie Noon to cut through the French defence and score the opening try of the game. The Bath flyhalf had rewarded Robinson's decision to install him at the expense of youngster Matthew Tait with the five-pointer that Hodgson converted.
Bernard Laporte's side responded well but struggled to find their stride and the kicking woes, not helped by the conditions, also seemed to plague Yachvili as he hit the post from the halfway line.
Hodgson stretched England's lead minutes later with another penalty but Yachvili kept his side in touch with his second penalty.
Another penalty miss for Hodgson was soon forgotten when winger Josh Lewsey crossed for England's second try.
His pace again was the key as he cut a superb line and shrugged off a tackle to dot down. Hodgson added the easy extras.
With the half-time break approaching Barkley twice stepped up to attempt a long range penalty but again England failed to hammer home their advantage.
The miss brought a close to the half and a woeful opening period for France that England failed to capitalise on and would live to regret not doing so.
As poor as France were before the break, they managed to completely turn the game in the second half with a more focused approach while in comparison England lost their way.
Laporte began to ring the changes soon after the break as he saw his own future, not just his side's fortunes looking bleak. It was England who presented him with a lifeline as they repeatedly offended to provide hope for les bleus.
Yachvilli obliged and slotted four penalties to pull his side back from the brink of despair to take a narrow lead, that they managed to hold for the last quarter of the game.
One by one Yachvili raised France's hopes of a remarkable turnaround, especially when Barkley matched Hodgson's inaccuracy through missing his third penalty.
Shortly after Yachvili failed narrowly with a penalty attempt from just inside his own half, and that was the cue for Laporte to send on Frederic Michalak in the place of the under-performing Yann Delaigue.
England still could not stop conceding penalties, and Yachvili punished them by slotting his sixth penalty to put France ahead for only the second time in the game.
Offered the chance of redemption in the closing moments of the game, Hodgson's day didn't get any better as his drop goal attempt fell hoplessly wide of the mark.
The final whistle brought delight for France who amazingly remain on course for the Grand Slam with two indifferent victories already to their name and a clash with Wales in Paris awaiting them.
England will once again have to pick themselves up, after losing their third succesive Champinship game for the first time since 1987. Once they have figured out how they threw this game away they must begin to plot how they can rescue something from this campaign with Ireland looming in two weeks.
England: 17 Try: Barkley, Lewsey Con: Hodgson (2) Pen: Hodgson
France: 18 Pen: Yachvili (6)
H/T: 17-6 England: J Robinson (Sale, capt); M Cueto (Sale), J Noon (Newcastle), O Barkley (Bath), J Lewsey (Wasps); C Hodgson (Sale), H Ellis (Leicester); G Rowntree (Leicester), S Thompson (Northampton), P Vickery (Gloucester), D Grewcock (Bath), B Kay (Leicester), J Worsley (Wasps) L Moody (Leicester), M Corry (Leicester).
Replacements: A Titterrell (Sale), A Sheridan (Sale), S Borthwick (Bath), A Hazell (Gloucester), M Dawson (Wasps), H Paul (Gloucester), B Cohen (Northampton).
France: P Elhorga (Agen); J Marlu (Biarritz), B Liebenberg (Stade Français), D Traille (Biarritz), C Dominici (Stade Français); Y Delaigue (Castres), D Yachvili (Biarritz); S Marconnet (Stade Français), S Bruno (Sale Sharks), N Mas (Perpignan), F Pelous (Toulouse, captain), J Thion (Biarritz), S Betsen (Biarritz), J Bonnaire (Bourgoin), S Chabal (Sale Sharks).
Replacements: W Servat (Toulouse), O Milloud (Bourgoin), G Lamboley (Toulouse), Y Nyanga (Beziers), P Mignoni (Clermont), F Michalak (Toulouse), J-P Grandclaude (Perpignan).
Venue: Twickenham Referee: P. O'Brien (NZ) RBS Man of the Match: Dimitri Yachvili (France)