England took pole position in the Six Nations title race on Saturday with a 17-9 win over France in a high-paced clash at Twickenham.
England took pole position in the Six Nations title race on Saturday with a 17-9 win over France in a high-paced encounter at Twickenham.
A Ben Foden try early in the second half proved to be the difference between two very evenly-matched sides in a clash high on intensity but littered by errors.
The result brings an end to France's Grand Slam defence and leaves England as the only unbeaten side in the championship.
It was all square after a hotly-contested first half that was somewhat tainted by a number of handling errors from both sides, who were looking to play positive rugby but struggled to come to grips with a slippery ball.
France enjoyed the ascendancy in terms of both territory and possession for much of the game but les Bleus will head home regretting a handful of missed opportunities.
England on the other hand confirmed their status as the northern hemisphere's leading nation as the home pack matched their much-vaunted visitors in the tight exchanges and the back three once again looked dangerous whenever on the ball.
Toby Flood opened the scoring from the kicking tee early on but was answered almost immediately by Dimitri Yachvili.
The respective place kickers continued to trade penalties until the French scrum-half had a chance to put France ahead for the first time just before the break.
His attempt sailed just wide however to leave the sides locked at 9-9 as they headed for the changing rooms.
England took the lead again soon after the restart when Foden scored an excellent try. Tom Palmer had put England on the attack by charging down Yachvili and after sending the ball to one touchline, England brought it back to the other as Flood had three runners coming off his shoulder. Foden showed tremendous strength to muscle his way over, despite the attention of two French defenders, for the game's only try.
Jonny Wilkinson added three points within seconds of coming on for an injured Flood to move ahead of Dan Carter as the world's top Test points scorer and extend England's advantage at 17-9.
Yachvili hit the upright with penalty attempt and AurÃ©lien Rougerie knocked on in the act over diving over the try-line to leave France frustrated but the status quo on the scoreboard.
England must now host Scotland before travelling to Dublin as they seek to repeat their Grand Slam of 2003.
Man of the match: Not too many stand out candidates here. Toby Flood was good but didn't last the distance after hurting his ankle. Rougerie was a class act but that knock-on when France desperately needed a try ruined his team's night. We'll back up the official choice and go for Tom Palmer who hit rucks hard all night and was key in setting up England's try.
Moment of the match: There can be only one: Foden's try was the match-clincher.
Villain of the match: A cheeky one here. Steve Thompson matched Brian Moore's record for caps at hooker for England, but his jersey was way to small for the size of his stomach!
Pens: Flood 3, Wilkinson
Pens: Yachvili 3
England:15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Mike Tindall (capt), 12 Shontayne Hape, 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Nick Easter, 7 James Haskell, 6 Tom Wood, 5 Tom Palmer, 4 Louis Deacon, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Andrew Sheridan.
Replacements:16 Steve Thompson, 17 Alex Corbisiero, 18 Simon Shaw, 19 Hendre Fourie, 20 Danny Care, 21 Jonny Wilkinson, 22 Matt Banahan.
France: 15 Clement Poitrenaud, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Aurelien Rougerie, 12 Yannick Jauzion, 11 Vincent Clerc, 10 Francois Trinh-Duc, 9 Dimitri Yachvili, 8 Sebastien Chabal, 7 Imanol Harinordoquy, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (c), 5 Lionel Nallet, 4 Julien Pierre, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 William Servat, 1 Thomas Domingo.
Replacements: 16 Guilhem Guirado, 17 Sylvain Marconnet, 18 Jerome Thion, 19 Julien Bonnaire, 20 Morgan Parra, 21 Damien Traille, 22 Alexis Palisson.
Venue: Twickenham, London
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Alan Lewis (Ireland), Tim Hayes (Wales)
Television match official: Giulio De Santis (Italy)