France beat England to second spot in Six Nations by edging thriller in Lyon

By Sports Desk March 16, 2024

England finished third in the Guinness Six Nations after a monster Thomas Ramos penalty in the final minute sent them spinning to a heartbreaking 33-31 defeat at Groupama Stadium.

Steve Borthwick’s men have trailed at half-time of every match of the Championship and once more they faced an uphill battle, this time in the form of 16-6 deficit that included a try of the tournament contender for scrum-half Nolann Le Garrec.

But they turned the contest on its head by amassing 21 unanswered points through two Ollie Lawrence tries and a Marcus Smith touch down as their attack ran amok through the France midfield.

France regrouped to cross through Leo Barre and Gael Fickou but England were not done yet as Tommy Freeman stormed over in the right corner with five minutes remaining.

They appeared to have secured their fourth win of the Six Nations having staged multiple fightbacks but when they infringed just outside their half with seconds left, Ramos kept his nerve to hit the target.

Manu Tuilagi came on for what is likely to be his final England appearance and he could not have asked for a more dramatic send-off.

Ireland may already have clinched the title by toppling Scotland but if evidence was needed that this match still mattered it came when Ramos kicked off before the countdown had even begun.

Once the false start had been dealt with, England were greeted with waves of attacks and a challenging opening was compounded when George Furbank departed with a calf injury and was replaced by Smith.

George Ford drew first blood through a penalty and his side were successfully slowing down play to stem the blue tide but there was no stopping the stunning end to end move began by Fickou and finished by Le Garrec.

England were in danger of being swept aside as they scrambled furiously to stop a second long-range strike but a sizeable lead opened up when Ramos kicked his second penalty.

Wing Damian Penaud beat a host of tackles yet made no metres in a crabbing run but it resulted in another opportunity for Ramos and he found the posts once more.

England showed their mettle, however, when Lawrence ran through Fickou on the cusp of half-time for a vitally important try that reduced the interval deficit to 16-10.

And there was better to come as a sweeping move given impetus by big runs from Sam Underhill and Ben Earl ended with a second try for Lawrence.

In a remarkable turn of events, England were now breaking through the home defence at will as Underhill and Earl combined a second time to create the opening before Smith arrived to score.

France now found their second wind and when their opponents eventually ran out of bodies in defence, they crossed through Barre to make it a one-point game heading into the final quarter.

With control restored, the 2023 World Cup hosts conjured a third try by Fickou that was born out of Theo Dan’s line-out overthrow.

But there was yet another twist as England staged a well-constructed attack that led to an overlap, providing a simple run in for Freeman.

Yet, with the Test seemingly won, up stepped Ramos to decide otherwise.

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