France started and finished well as they snatched a dramatic 26-24 victory against England after trailing with just minutes remaining in Paris. Young Gael Fickou came on to replace battering ram Mathieu Bastareaud and scored the decisive try at the death.
England appeared to have a famous away victory in the bag before things slipped with minutes to go, and a defensive lapse, combined with French flair, saw them leave Paris with little more than pride in a strong performance.
France got off to the perfect start when Yoann Huget touched down after just 30 seconds. He scored again on 17 minutes, before a Mike Brown try game England something to fight for, then a brilliant bit of play by Billy Vunipola set up their second try.
Trailing with just three minutes left, France put together a superb passage of play that eventually led to replacement hooker Dimitri Szarzewski setting up replacement centre Fickou. Scores were tied, and the easiest of conversions gave France the lead, and with time almost up, the win.
England coach Stuart Lancaster praised the character of his players though. “I thought the boys showed incredible character, resilience and a lot of skill to put ourselves in a position to win it.
“It was a great performance in lots of ways. We’re very proud. Once we get over the initial disappointment we’ll take a huge amount of positives from the game.”
French coach Philippe Saint Andre said that it was anything but a complete French performance.
“We were the first and the last to shoot but we suffered physically in the second half, we missed a lot of tackles. There’s a lot of work to do still but what we’ll have to remember is the victory, the smiles on the players’ face after the game. It’s a great sign for the season 2014,” he said.
Full extended highlights have now been added below. Thoughts on the thriller?