Player Ratings: Dark day at Twickenham
OPINION: This was savage, a brutal record beating as England were blown away by France.
They came into the round four fixture retaining Six Nations title hopes, but that nosebleed notion was quickly swept away amid a chastening 3-27 first-half onslaught.
The rain cascaded down from on high and buoyant blue shirts ran rings through and around the wilting men in white, and it then got despairingly worse, France turning on even more style after the break to breeze home by an embarrassing 10-53 margin.
The seven-tries-to-one die was cast just 106 seconds in, Thomas Ramos running in with glee, and the opening period thumping was then book-ended by ferocious scrum power followed by an unstoppable dash from Charles Ollivon.
In between, there was carnage, the lost kicking battle epitomised by the raking Antoine Dupont 50:22 kick that heralded the lineout that ended with Thibaud Flament scoring by the posts on 26 minutes.
Where was the England who were supposed to be transformed by Marcus Smith’s naming at No.10 in place of the benched Owen Farrell, the England that had been hyped to thrive off the inspiration of first-time skipper Ellis Genge, and the England that was intent on the “brilliant basics” that coach Steve Borthwick has harped on about this past month? All that palaver was marked absent in a rout where their back row essentially never got off the bus.
There was a consolation cheer when Freddie Steward got England’s only try shortly after Farrell’s introduction but it all then fell to pieces as their defence was run ragged by a four-try riposte from Flament, Ollivon and Damian Penaud twice.
Winning at Twickenham was the one box left unticked by the French in four championships under Fabien Galthie. That tick has now been well and truly inked, Les Bleus’ winning at English Rugby HQ for the first time since 2005.
How the England Players after a performance to forget:
15 Freddie Steward – 7
Man of the match on the last day, man of his very poor team by a country mile here. So many of his involvements were positive and his defiance was rewarded by his 48th minute. Caught rotten nine minutes later, though, by the bouncing ball for France’s bonus point score.
14 Max Malins – 4
High tackle on Ramos was his most notable first-half contribution. Then came the try that never was early in the second when he frustratingly couldn’t grasp Smith’s crosskick. Whipped off on 59 for Henry Arundell. Poor effort in nearly all aspects.
13 Henry Slade – 3.5
No one could quibble that he didn’t deserve his place, but he was blown away here and hooked on 46 for Farrell. His display was summed up by how he was roadkill as Flament blasted over for his first try.
12 Ollie Lawrence – 4
Was on a hiding to nothing a minute into the contest when he couldn’t do anything to prevent the midfield offload that engineered the opening French try. His 60-minute appearance went from bad to worse after that.
11 Anthony Watson – 4.5
Had a standout moment when dancing with Damian Penaud on tidying up a first-half kick in behind, but his general ineffectiveness was encapsulated by the straightforward catch he fumbled not long after under no pressure.
10 Marcus Smith – 3.5
Looked confused from the off, disorientation summed up by his head-scratching punt after England win a free at a scrum. That gave the French a soft mark to clear from their 22. His puzzled effort continued right the way through on a miserable evening capped by that gaffe of not touching down behind his line, allowing Ollivon to burgle his second try.
9 Jack van Poortvliet – 4
Very much a case of master and apprentice, the rookie England scrumhalf getting schooled by his opposite number Dupont. Gone on 46 and not before time.
1 Ellis Genge – 5
First time captain endured a horrible experience in which he contributed to his team’s slow start with a deflating 12th-minute knock-on. He was in regular dialogue with referee Ben O’Keeffe but to no avail. The application of the laws wasn’t an issue, more a case of his team’s lethargic work rate. Gone on 65.
2 Jamie George – 4.5
Played the full 80, which was about the only positive thing that could be said given how good the opposite number Julian Marchand was.
3 Kyle Sinckler – 4
Caught in first-half penalty trouble away from the set-piece, conceding three. Another was taken off on 65 with the result long since decided.
4 Maro Itoje – 4
Looked to be improving during February, but this display was a collapse as he was outfought by the opposition grunt, Was also left looking silly with the first-half Superman dive try and stop a Dupont pass, the No.9 instead dummied and went through a gap instead.
5 Ollie Chessum – 5
Was his team’s best forward but that doesn’t say much on an evening when the pack didn’t turn as a unit.
6 Lewis Ludlam – 4.5
Similar to Sinckler, he badly fell foul of referee O’Keeffe in the opening 15 minutes and was always on the backfoot from there. Also flapped the lineout catch when England kicked a penalty to the corner at 0-10.
7 Jack Willis – 4
Played with his left knee bandaged and looked sluggish throughout his 53 minutes, which ended with him not offering Steward enough protection at a breakdown. Was the other player involved in not preventing the offload on halfway that got France up and running with their opening score.
8 Alex Dombrandt – 3.5
Took the guts of 35 minutes for him to finally carry the ball but was soon giving away a meek knock-on that sucked whatever enthusiasm was left from home fans. An awful day ended with Penaud leaving him for dead for the first of his late tries.
16 Jack Walker – 4
Introduced on 60 for Lawrence – of all people. Carried hard.
17 Mako Vunipola – 3.5
Given 15 best forgotten minutes.
18 Dan Cole – 3.5
19 David Ribbans – No Rating
Named in place of the injured Courtney Lawes, but given token minutes right at the death.
20 Ben Curry – 3.5
Had the guts of nearly half an hour for Willis but the floodgates opened.
21 Alex Mitchell – 5
Subbed on six minutes into the second half. Quickly upped the tempo and gave the assist for Steward. Downhill from there.
22 Owen Farrell – 4.5
Another 46th-minute sub, he created a gap with his first pass that got England going for their try. Like Mitchell, that was the height of it.
23 Henry Arundell – 3.5
Given a decent chunk of time here compared to Cardiff but was a passenger.