So close but heartbreak for England

So close but heartbreak for England


in Lyon

Gutted England skipper Jamie George suffered a case of déjà vu as his side were downed 33-31 by a late penalty in France – again.

George had flashbacks of the last time England were involved in a match across the Channel when their World Cup hopes went up in smoke in the semi-final against South Africa thanks to Handre Pollard’s late winner.

But George was justifiably proud of his side who went toe-to-toe with the French before being denied at the death.

England were already out of the title hunt after Ireland’s 17-13 win over Scotland in Dublin and their dreams of a fourth win in the Six Nations were dashed by Thomas Ramos’s late penalty.

Steve Borthwick’s men finished up with three wins, their best return since their title-winning season in 2020, but it could have been so much better.

George said: “Devastated. It was reminiscent of the loss against South Africa last time we were in France. France showed their class but we fought our way back, this a team that’s on an upward curve.”

England and France were fighting over second place in Lyon while Ireland lifted the trophy earlier in the afternoon.

Ireland prop Andrew Porter’s try, on 65 minutes, seemed to seal the deal for Andy Farrell’s men in Dublin but they were given a late scare when Scotland’s Huw Jones scored under the sticks.

Ireland held on for victory and a second title on the spin, after last year’s Grand Slam, and head to South Africa in the summer for a heavyweight contest with the world champions.

Head coach Farrell said: “We’re delighted, to win back-to-back Six Nations, that’s a nice feeling. It goes down in history for Irish rugby.”

Warren Gatland offered his resignation after his Wales side had been beaten 24-21 by Italy in Cardiff, a result which condemned them to the wooden spoon for the first time since 2003. The head coach immediately had that knocked back by WRU chief executive Abi Tierney despite a dismal five defeats out of five.

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England’s third-place finish will feel like a kick in the guts after Borthwick’s Lions roared in Lyon and laid it all on the line with a four-try performance.

Tommy Freeman’s try with four minutes remaining, converted from the touchline by George Ford, had given England the lead before Ramos delivered the killer blow.

Ben Earl put in another supercharged performance and it was a heartbreaker for the Saracens flanker that it was his no-arms challenge that gave Ramos his shot.

George added: “When we play we look a dangerous team, but when [France] play they show their class, and fair play to Ramos for knocking that over. It wasn’t perfect out there, but our performance and endeavour I love and it’s been a great seven weeks for me.”

Borthwick added: “I’m really disappointed for the players. They worked so hard and I really wanted a win for the player who have worked really hard to improve.

“Sometimes you have to just stay in the fight and we did that, but sometimes you run out of time rather than lose. I’ll review the tournament properly and take some time to do that, but mainly I’m really proud of the players.”

England’s new attacking style, showcased in the win over Ireland last weekend, brought them the four-try bonus point and ripped the French defence apart at some points.

France defence coach Shaun Edwards said: “Our attack was great but I was very disappointed with the defence. You should not have to score 30 points to win a Test match.

“Our midfield was where the problem was and we were missing tackles. We need to sort that out – it was the worst defensive display since I arrived in France.”

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