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France edge England in Lyon thriller

MATCH REPORT: Flyhalf Thomas Ramos kicked a dramatic late penalty as France ended their Six Nations campaign with a 33-31 victory over England in Lyon on Saturday.

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Ramos’ 80th-minute effort helped the French claim second place in the standings, after Ireland had lifted the title by beating Scotland earlier in the day.

It offered some relief after a sluggish tournament following the disappointment of crashing out at the quarter-final stage of last year’s World Cup on home soil.

England finished third in the standings, with Steve Borthwick’s side showing glimmers of hope before summer Tests against Japan and New Zealand.

Borthwick kept flyhalf Marcus Smith on the bench after he had kicked the extra-time winning drop goal in last weekend’s 23-22 victory over future champions Ireland.

France flank Charles Ollivon started the game despite missing Friday’s training sessions for personal reasons as coach Fabien Galthie named an unchanged side from last Sunday’s 45-24 win at Wales.

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The vocal 59,000 sell-out crowd at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais, being used as the Stade de France is being prepared for this summer’s Paris Olympic Games, witnessed a dominant start from the hosts, looking for a third straight win in the fixture for the first time in 18 years.

There was no Six Nations title to play for but the old rivals showed no let-up in the final game of the tournament as England fullback George Furbank was forced off with a head injury and replaced by Smith after less than 10 minutes.

After 19 minutes the sides were equal after Ramos responded to an early George Ford penalty before Nolann Le Garrec sent the home crowd delirious with the opening try.

The scrumhalf, putting his hand up as Antoine Dupont’s heir apparent, finished under the sticks after young fullback Leo Barre made a 50m break and with Ramos’ conversion Galthie’s side led 10-3.

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By the half hour mark the game had lost its structure with countless loose kicks and dropped balls before Ramos took the score to 13-3 with a second penalty.

Ramos added another three-pointer before England’s hopes of a first away win in the fixture since 2016 were given a boost seconds before half-time as centre Ollie Lawrence strolled over to score.

Lawrence’s try sparked something in England and they were leading 24-16 after just five minutes of the second half as the midfielder added a second effort and Smith scored in a clinical blitz reminiscent of their victory over Ireland last time out.

Galthie brought on some fresh faces from the bench including hooker Peato Mauvaka and the reaction came with 25 minutes to play.

Les Bleus found some momentum with powerful carries from Mauvaka and veteran prop Uini Atonio before Barre scored his first Test try as Galthie’s side re-took control of a franticly open tie.

Ramos kicked the additional points to make it 24-23 before playing a crucial role in centre Gael Fickou’s try.

Toulouse playmaker Ramos converted the extras again and France led 30-24 going into a potentially fiery final quarter.

England refused to accept defeat and led by a point with five minutes to go as Tommy Freeman went over in the corner and Ford added a conversion.

Ramos then stepped up for the winner with 55 seconds left on the clock, showing an unbelievable coolness to slot the crucial penalty from 50 metres.

The scorers

For France
Tries: Le Garrec, Barre, Fickou
Cons: Ramos 3
Pens: Ramos 4

For England
Tries: Lawrence 2, Smith, Freeman
Cons: Ford 4
Pen: Ford

Teams

France: 15 Leo Barre, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Gael Fickou, 12 Nicolas Depoortere, 11 Louis Bielle-Biarrey, 10 Thomas Ramos, 9 Nolann Le Garrec, 8 Gregory Alldritt (captain), 7 Charles Ollivon, 6 Francois Cros, 5 Emmanuel Meafou, 4 Thibaud Flament, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Julien Marchand, 1 Cyril Baille.
Replacements: 16 Peato Mauvaka, 17 Sebastien Taofifenua, 18 Georges-Henri Colombe, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Alexandre Roumat, 21 Paul Boudehent, 22 Maxime Lucu, 23 Yoram Moefana.

England: 15 George Furbank, 14 Tommy Freeman, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ollie Lawrence, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 George Ford, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Ben Earl, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Ollie Chessum, 5 George Martin, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Jamie George (captain), 1 Ellis Genge.
Replacements: 16 Theo Dan, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Ethan Roots, 20 Alex Dombrandt, 21 Danny Care, 22 Marcus Smith, 23 Manu Tuilagi.

Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Nika Amashukeli (Georgia), Damian Schneider (Argentina)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)

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