Rugby / Six Nations / England Battle Past France to Eye Grand Slam

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England withstood the stiffest of examinations from a revitalized France yesterday but, thanks to the goalkicking of Owen Farrell and a try by Manu Tuilagi, emerged 23-13 winners of their Six Nations clash at Twickenham.

For an hour France were unrecognizable from the team beaten by Italy and Wales in their opening games and scored a brilliant individual try through center Wesley Fofana to deservedly lead 10-9 at the break.

England struggled to make any impact but the superb goalkicking of Farrell punished the dominant French for their indiscipline and Tuilagi took them clear when he scooped up a loose ball to score 15 minutes into the second half. A rash of replacements worked in England’s favor as they eventually wrestled control in the final quarter and two Toby Flood penalties sealed the win.

England, seeking their first grand slam since 2003, lead the standings with six points from three wins. Wales are second on four after beating Italy earlier yesterday, with France in last place having lost their first three games.

Defending champion Wales overwhelmed Italy 26-9 in appalling conditions, with man-of-the-match Leigh Halfpenny kicking 16 points. Fullback Halfpenny missed only one kick in the torrential rain while center Jonathan Davies and right wing Alex Cuthbert scored second-half tries.

Italian captain Martin Castrogiovanni, taking over from the suspended Sergio Parisse, was sent to the sin bin in the second half after being shown a yellow card for repeated scrum infringements in the front row.

The Italian scrum, normally one of the team’s strengths, failed to contain a committed Welsh eight and they rarely looked like breaching the visitors’ defense. Flyhalf Kris Burton kicked all their points with three penalties.

“The first half was tough and the conditions had a huge impact on the way both teams played. The game management was excellent. To come here and beat Italy you need composure,” said Wales captain Ryan Jones. “Our attitude was superb. You can never question our never-say-die attitude. We dug real deep and showed what we’re made of as a team.”

Ireland's Cian Healy, right, is tackled by Wales' Mike Phillips on his way to scoring during their Six Nations rugby match.Credit: AP