England survive stern France test to end 13-year Grand Slam wait


England sealed their first Six Nations Grand Slam since 2003 as they overcame a spirited France side 31-21 in an absorbing contest at the Stade de France on Saturday.

Eddie Jones' men visited the Parisian suburb of Saint-Denis aiming to banish the ghosts of the missed Grand Slam opportunities in 2011 and 2013.

Six Nations: England v France

Six Nations: England v France

France had a periods of dominance throughout the encounter, but were continually punished for ill-discipline, turnovers and poor line-out play as England ran in three tries through Danny Care, Dan Cole and Anthony Watson.

Despite being the more clinical side with ball in hand, England never quite had control as France fly-half Maxime Machenaud knocked over seven penalties to keep Guy Noves' men in the game.

The hosts' performance belied that of a team beaten 29-18 by Scotland a week earlier yet, although England lost captain Dylan Hartley to injury late on, the champions held on to end their 13-year wait for a Slam.

France took an early lead as Machenaud slotted over a penalty, only for Owen Farrell to respond immediately, hitting a three-pointer of his own in off the post after Watson had been tackled high from the restart.

The hosts had looked the more adventurous attacking side in the opening stages, but it was England who crossed for the game's first try when Care capitalised on some sloppy defence, sprinting clean through a gap from the ruck.

Farrell added the extras to make it 10-3, only for the boot of Machenaud to put France back within striking distance on the quarter-of-an-hour mark.

But France were punished for failing to take advantage of numerous attacking opportunities as England stretched their advantage to 11 points after 20 minutes in contentious fashion.

Cole finished superbly to barrel his way over from close range, with the try allowed to stand despite referee Nigel Owens being given another chance to check for a possible obstruction by Mako Vunipola.

The howls of derision that greeted Owens' decision failed to distract Farrell from adding the conversion, although the home crowd were pacified somewhat by Machenaud's third penalty eight minutes later.

Another success with the boot from Machenaud followed as England were pinned for failing to release, with a Farrell miss on the stroke of half-time giving France further reason for hope as they went into the interval just five points behind.

Machenaud and Farrell traded penalties shortly after the restart, with the former then making it six from six in the 50th minute to pull France back within two as a seemingly nervous England struggled to deal with the pressure.

However, Jones' men appeared to have breathing space five minutes later when England took advantage of a quick scrum ball, Watson touching down from a Ben Youngs grubber following an excellent surge from Billy Vunipola.

Machenaud's penalty straight from the subsequent restart kept hopes of a late turnaround alive, but, although Hartley was taken off on a stretcher with a head injury, Farrell kept his cool to add a further pair of three-pointers - the second coming after Xavier Chiocci had been sin-binned - to make sure of the Slam.