Mayday, Mayday, Mayday: France routed by England in 6Nations
LONDON (AP) — Two rounds into the Six Nations, only two teams remain unbeaten. And they meet next.
England ensured the showdown with Wales in two weeks in Cardiff will be extra spicy by crushing France 44-8 at Twickenham on Sunday.
Coach Eddie Jones promised England would be even better after demolishing reigning champion Ireland in Dublin on the opening weekend, and his side was merciless in its biggest win against France in 108 years.
England has two hugely impressive bonus-point victories, and Wales has equaled its best winning streak of 11 from more than a century ago.
“We’re playing the greatest Welsh side ever, so we’ll have to be at our absolute best,” Jones said.
There seems little doubt England will be. Where England overwhelmed Ireland with power and pressure, this time it showed savvy and smarts to keep pickpocketing the French with chip kicks and grubbers and canny chasing.
France’s decision to put two centers on the wings, and a wing at fullback, was ruthlessly exposed as three of England’s four tries in the first half came from expertly weighted kicks in behind the defense, where no blue jerseys were anywhere near.
“It’s very painful when they score try after try,” France captain Guilhem Guirado said. “The pressure was constant and we never managed to get out of that.”
By halftime, England had the bonus-point fourth try. Winger Jonny May had a hat trick in the first half-hour.
May scored England’s first try after just 64 seconds, the third straight match he’s scored in the first two minutes. More remarkably, it was the fifth consecutive match England has scored in the first two minutes.
Jones said, “Jonny May is like, when you go to the park, and you see a person with a tennis ball and they throw it, and the dog runs 100 mph and chases and brings it back. He does that pretty well.”
Guirado was an unwitting culprit in England’s first two scores. His dropped catch started the counterattack in which fullback Elliot Daly weaved into French territory and kicked ahead for May, who easily overtook the defense and pounced on the ball just 64 seconds in.
That was faster than his try 91 seconds in against Ireland, and two minutes in against Australia in November.
Guirado was then penalized for not rolling away in a ruck and Owen Farrell kicked England 8-0 ahead in a shower.
Farrell and Morgan Parra traded penalties, and France appeared settled until the start of the second quarter when England forced a lineout in the French 22. England bashed at the defense and Farrell passed out left to May, who stepped opposite Damian Penaud and was over.
Five minutes later, Parra spilled a high ball on his 22, England wing Chris Ashton recovered and grubbered and the chasing May was under no pressure to tap down and complete his hat trick, the first by an Englishman against France since Henry Jacob in 1924.
With his 12th try in his last 12 tests, May eclipsed New Zealand’s Rieko Ioane to be test rugby’s highest try-scorer since the start of 2018.
Farrell converted for 23-3 and victory was certain, even after Penaud finished a counterattack started by fullback Yoann Huget, who slipped three tackles.
England merely brushed that off and scored on halftime when a Ben Youngs grubber kick was scooped up by Ashton and taken to the posts. Prop Kyle Sinckler played scrumhalf to center Henry Slade, who stepped Guirado for England’s fourth try and a 30-8 lead.
Huget took a head knock and was replaced by a real fullback, debutant Thomas Ramos, at halftime. But France only reduced the bleeding in the second half as England threw on reserves and rested stars such as Mako Vunipola, George Kruis, Ashton, and Sinckler in the third quarter.
By then, Ashton had bombed a try by dropping a lob pass from Manu Tuilagi, but earned a penalty try when he was tackled off the ball from behind by counterpart Gael Fickou.
Farrell scored the sixth and last England try, and converted it, after Youngs’ quick tap penalty from 70 meters out and Farrell’s kick ahead was messed up by France under pressure from May.
The last 25 minutes went scoreless, with Jones saying he was pleased England didn’t relax in the second half.
His England had stepped up from smashing Ireland to achieve its biggest win over France since a 37-0 result in 1911.