England have completed their first Six Nations Grand Slam since 2003 after beating France 31-21 in Paris on Saturday night.
Scotland’s victory over France last weekend handed Eddie Jones‘s side their first Six Nations crown since 2011, but England overcame a spirited French side by 10 points to win their first Grand Slam for 13 years.
England were pinged for lying on the ball early on, which allowed France, through the impressive Maxime Machenaud, to open up a 3-0 lead in the second minute. The advantage did not last long, however, asOwen Farrell replied immediately for England to leave the two teams level at 3-3 in the fourth minute.
France continued to thread some neat passes as the clash gathered pace, but it was England that registered the first try of the match – Danny Care racing through to slam home in the 14th minute, before Farrell converted for 10-3.
Machenaud kicked his second penalty in the 15th minute, however, as France moved to within four of their opponents.
England bit straight back though as Dan Cole tumbled across the line for England’s second try in the 20th minute, before Farrell converted for the third time to make it an 11-point game at the mid-point of the first period.
Despite the score, France continued to look the more dangerous as they pulled England all over the field and Machenaud kicked for another three on the half-hour mark.
Farrell’s best work for England in the first period came as the goal-kicker, but the number 12 continued to impress with some heavy challenges. Machenaud on the opposite side was equally impressive though and he converted once again in the 40th minute to leave the score 17-12.
Farrell had the chance to make it an eight-point game moments before the half-time whistle after a French scrum collapsed, but the 24-year-old could not convert from a wide angle as Nigel Owens brought the opening period to a close.
The score began to reflect France’s performance when Machenaud struck again early after the start to cut the gap to two points, but Farrell was back to his best in the 46th minute when he just converted for 20-15.
England failed to release in the 51st minute, however, and it brought another French penalty, which Machenaud converted to make it six from six.
The away side had their third and what proved to be final try in the 56th minute when Anthony Watson, who was fed by Ben Youngs, showed excellent hands under pressure to register, but the resulting penalty from Farrell was too wide as it remained 25-18 England with 59 minutes on the clock.
Machenaud’s sensational kicking kept France in touching distance, however, as the home side refused to bow under pressure.
Dylan Hartley took a big hit for England 12 minutes from time after colliding with Bernard Le Roux‘s knee and the skipper could not continue, with Luke Cowan-Dickie introduced at a key stage of the match.
Farrell held his nerve in the 73rd minute to send England into a 28-21 lead, before kicking for three more six minutes later to make it a 10-point game and leave France needing a minor miracle to prevent the Grand Slam late on. That miracle did not arrive as Owens brought the clash to a close and allowed the England celebrations to begin.