England crowned U20 champions

Date published: March 21 2015

England regained the U20 Six Nations title after securing a 24-11 victory over France in a winner-takes-all clash in Brighton on Friday.

Fabien Sanconnie's first-half try and the boot of Thomas Ramos had put defending champions France in front but after the break tries from Joe Marchant – his sixth of this year's Championship – and George Perkins sealed victory and the overall title

Les Bleuets won the Grand Slam in 2014 and arrived at the Community Stadium top of the standings on points difference after four rounds of games but Jon Callard's side are the defending two-time junior world champions.

And with Rory Jennings also kicking 14 points from the tee the Red Rose will now head to this summer's Junior World Championships confident of making it a hat-trick after outlasting their French opponents to claim a fourth U20 Six Nations in the last five years.

The hosts made the brighter start and could have taken an early lead but Aaron Morris' long-range penalty attempt was off target.

Callard's troops have bounced back well from defeat on the opening weekend to Wales and they were straight into the groove in Brighton as their fine offloading game created momentum and in the ninth minute Jennings slotted his first penalty to deservedly put them in front.

But Ramos was yet to miss a kick in this year's tournament and he restored parity from bang in front after the visitors' first foray into English territory.

The two kickers then swapped two more successful penalties after both scrums had got the nudge on and with 20 minutes played the scores were level at 6-6.

France were slowly building into the game and it was they who looked like they had scored the game's first try before the half-hour mark as Thibault Estorge barged over.

Fine work from Anthony Meric with a behind-the-back-pass had created the score and while Estorge went over the TMO spotted a little knock on in the build-up and the try was chalked off.

France kept coming though and, after turning down a kickable penalty after the half-hour mark, a short-range rolling maul eventually put number eight Sanconnie over for a deserved score.

Ramos missed for the first time in this year's Championship with the conversion and the two sides went in at the break with France 11-6 ahead and looking good for a first win in England at this level since 2009.

The tournament's top try scorer Marchant had made one good break just before the interval to give France food for thought and after the interval he was at it again and his fine burst created a penalty chance that Jennings slotted.

At 11-9 England were back within touching distance and when France went accidentally offside from a Morris up and under Jennings made no mistake to retake the lead.

With the hour mark approaching England appeared to have dulled the French threat and – after the Red Rose scrum had got the nudge on again – they could have led by more but Jennings missed from long range.

That miss seemed to re-awaken France however and a fine break from Alexandre Pilati nearly created their second score before Sekou Macalou was bundled into touch short of the try line.

And England then went up the other end and struck the decisive blow, replacement Stu Townsend doing so well to charge down the French clearance and when it bounced up for Marchant the Quins centre pirouetted beautifully in the air to dot down without his feet sliding into touch.

The tough conversion was missed by Jennings meaning France were far from out of it at 17-11 with a quarter of an hour still to play.

But by this stage it was all England and a slick offloading move then killed off the French challenge moments later as winger George Perkins dotted down under the posts.

In the closing stages France tried hard to mount a comeback but the Red Rose defence held firm to spark joyous celebrations at the final whistle.

The scorers:

For England U20:
Tries: Marchant, Perkins
Cons: Jennings
Pens: Jennings 4

For France U20:
Tries: Sanconnie
Pens: Ramos 2

England: 15 Aaron Morris, 14 George Perkins, 13 Tom Fowlie, 12 Joe Marchant, 11 Howard Packman, 10 Rory Jennings, 9 James Mitchell, 8 James Chisholm, 7 Will Owen, 6 Charlie Beckett, 5 Charlie Ewels, 4 Kieran Treadwell, 3 Paul Hill, 2 Jack Walker, 1 Seb Adeniran-Olule.
Replacements: 16 Jack Innard, 17 Owen Hills, 18 Ciaran Parker, 19 Joe Batley, 20 Sam Skinner, 21 Stu Townsend, 22 Tom Howe, 23 Piers O'Conor.

France: 15 Thomas Ramos, 14 Alexandre Pilati, 13 Eliott Roudil, 12 Damian Penaud, 11 Lucas Blanc, 10 Lucas Meret, 9 Anthony Meric, 8 Fabien Sanconnie, 7 Lucas Bachelier, 6 Sekou Macalou, 5 Mathieu Tanguy, 4 Tristan Labouteley, 3 Michael Simutoga, 2 Julien Marchand, 1 Thibault Estorge.
Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Thierry Paiva, 18 Quentin Bethune, 19 Anthony Jelonch, 20 Martin Devergie, 21 Antoine Dupont, 22 Lucas Chouvet, 23 Alexandre Gracbling.

With thanks to the RBS Six Nations website