AFP/Twickenham, United Kingdom
Jonny May ran in a first-half hat-trick of tries as England thrashed France 44-8 at Twickenham yesterday to make it two wins from two this year’s Six Nations.
Kicks behind the French defence on a rainswept pitch proved the visitors’ undoing, with May repeatedly tormenting opposing wing Damian Penaud.
England’s 36-point margin of victory was only just shy of their largest against Les Bleus — a 37-0 win in France’s first match at Twickenham back in 1911.
May opened the scoring in the second minute as England, for the fifth Test in a row, had a try inside the first three minutes.
And the half ended with outside centre Henry Slade crossing for England’s fourth try to leave them in complete command at 30-8.
This victory followed England’s 32-20 win away to reigning champions Ireland last week and was another impressive display ahead of this year’s World Cup.
For France, who will be one of England’s pool opponents at Japan 2019, it was their second straight defeat this Championship after they squandered a 16-0 half-time lead in a 24-19 loss to Wales in Paris.
Jacques Brunel, the France coach, made six changes to his starting XV following that match but this humiliation meant his side had now lost 10 of their last 13 Tests.
Barely had the anthems finished when France’s bid for a first Six Nations win at Twickenham since 2005 was rocked by May’s opening try.
France captain Guilhem Guirado knocked on and England full-back Elliot Daly, recovering the loose ball, cut a line through the visitors defence before putting in a clever angled kick behind the cover and into the in-goal area.
May, surging past Penaud, touched down to make it 5-0.
England captain Owen Farrell missed the tough conversion from but the fly-half soon added a penalty before France scrum-half Morgan Parra kicked one of his own before a 40-metre Farrell penalty made it 11-3.
France started to get into the game but their cause was not helped when, near the England line, hooker Guirado missed his intended jumper by throwing the ball over the top of a line-out.
Daly continued to test Penaud, the son of former France fly-half Alain Penaud, with well judged grubber kicks behind the defensive line as England advanced into the visitors’ 22.
And after sustained forward pressure Farrell’s cut-out pass found May who, one-on-one with not much room to play with against Penaud, beat the Frenchman all too easily for another try in the left corner.
Farrell’s conversion hit the post but England were 16-3 up.
And May clinched his hat-trick in the 30th minute when Parra knocked on a high ball and a clever kick from fellow wing Chris Ashton, making his first Championship start in six years, saw him sliding in again.
This time Farrell kicked the conversion and England were almost out of sight at 23-3.
France did capitalise on a rare slip by England when full-back Yoann Huget burst through several tackles before sending Penaud in for a try at the right corner, with Parra missing the conversion.
But England had a bonus point try on the stroke of half-time.
This time a kick through from scrum-half Ben Youngs found Ashton in a huge amount of space an although the former Toulon star was hauled down short of the line, the ball came back to Slade, who cut inside for a converted try.
France’s day went from bad to worse in the 50th minute when they were reduced to 14 men as Gael Fickou was yellow-carded for tackling Ashton without the ball near the try-line — an incident that also saw experienced referee Nigel Owens award a penalty try that extended England’s lead to 37-8.
Following a touchline flare-up, Farrell chased up his own kick as England scored yet another try by putting the ball behind a powerful but sluggish France.
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