SAINT-DENIS, France: England survived a late comeback from France to win 24-22 at Stade de France Sunday and keep alive its slim chances of retaining the Six Nations title.
England led 24-15 thanks to flanker Tom Croft’s try with only a few minutes remaining, but France suddenly remembered how to play attacking rugby for Wesley Fofana to score in the right corner to give the hosts some hope of an improbable win.
Burly center Manu Tuilagi and fullback Ben Foden scored first-half tries to put England in control against an error-prone French team.
England can retain its title if it convincingly beats Ireland next weekend at Twickenham and France thrashes Wales in Cardiff.
France coach Philippe Saint-Andre had a game-plan to kick deep to push the English back, replacing experienced halves Morgan Parra and Francois Trinh-Duc with scrumhalf Julien Dupuy and flyhalf Lionel Beauxis.
But England’s first two tries stemmed from inaccurate kicks, and France looked more dangerous when running the ball rather than playing a territorial game. When Parra and Trinh-Duc came on in the second half, they immediately electrified France’s attacking game.
Against the run of play, England took the lead when Tuilagi found space, skipped past fullback Clement Poitrenaud to charge up the right wing and evade Aurelien Rougerie’s desperate tackle.
France reduced the deficit when Beauxis nailed a kick from the right, his first of three in the game.
But weak French tackling let England in for another converted score when Julien Bonnaire failed to bring down No. 8 Ben Morgan, who crashed through another tackle near the line before passing to Foden right near the line for an easy converted try.
Dupuy and Beauxis kicked penalties thanks to English indiscipline to make it 14-9 at the interval.
Owen Farrell’s penalty made it 17-9 soon after halftime after Fofana had knocked on.
Parra slotted over a kick and Beauxis landed a huge penalty from just behind the halfway line to make it 17-15 and set up a tense last 10 minutes.
But the hard work was undone when Croft found a big gap in the French midfield and brushed aside Rougerie, Imanol Harinordoquy and Poitrenaud on the line to score.
France hit back with Parra setting up Fofana in the right corner. France powered forward and passed the ball out to Trinh-Duc, but his drop goal attempt dipped under the bar. Thierry Dusautoir fumbled the ball in the last French attack, and English players jumped into each other’s arms at the final whistle.
Ireland extended Scotland’s winless streak with a 32-14 Six Nations victory at Lansdowne Road Saturday.
Defeat for Scotland left them facing yet another “wooden spoon” decider away to fellow strugglers Italy in Rome next weekend.