Farrell's sudden-death penalty sees England past remarkable French effort

There was sensational drama at Twickenham in the Autumn Nations Cup final.

England 22

France 19

IT WAS SUPPOSED to be a ‘farce’ as France were shorn of more than 25 players for this Autumn Nations Cup final against England.

Instead, it was a sensational decider that went deep into extra time.

An agreement between the French rugby federation and the Top 14 clubs regarding playing minutes over the extended autumn schedule meant Fabien Galthié’s starting XV was shorn of its front-liners and had just 68 Test caps in it.

luke-cowan-dickie-celebrates-after-scoring-a-try England equalised in the last minute of regular time. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Eddie Jones’s England side had 813 caps between them and were the heavy favourites to secure the trophy in front of the 2,000 fans allowed into Twickenham for this decider.

Instead, Galthié’s inexperienced side underlined the depth of talent in French rugby by pushing England all the way into the second half of sudden-death extra time.

English captain Owen Farrell should have won it for his side in the third minute of the additional time but his penalty shot bounced off the right post and glanced across the uprights and wide to the left in a remarkable moment.

But Farrell held his nerve with another shot in the 15th minute of extra time after Maro Itoje was awarded a turnover penalty by referee Andrew Brace and Jones’ men were the winners.

England were well off their best in normal time as Farrell missed three other kicks at goal but les Bleus made their lives very difficult with an impressive defensive effort inspired by former Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards.

brice-dulin-scores-a-try Brice Dulin scored a first-half try for France. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

With a home World Cup to come in 2023, Galthié’s French squad highlighted their depth of potential even as they lost.

The ferocious opening minutes saw France lay down their physical challenge but it was England who notched the first points as Farrell slotted a penalty when Ellis Genge won a scrum penalty against Dorian Aldegheri.

Farrell was wide with his second effort and France reacted with a superb opening try in the 15th minute, out-half Matthieu Jalibert darting at the line, fending Jamie George and, just after he was tap tackled by Farrell, passing for fullback Brice Dulin to finish.

Jalibert converted and while England fullback Elliot Daly soon closed the deficit with a 45-metre penalty, Jones’ men looked rattled and were sloppy with their own discipline, allowing Jalibert to tack on another six points off the tee.

England had a prime chance to equalise just before half time as they launched from a lineout seven metres out but France delivered a stunning passage of goal-line defence over 14 phases as they refused to let the English over, the sequence ending with Genge knocking on. 

cameron-woki-competes-in-the-air-with-maro-itoje Cameron Woki wins a lineout for the French. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Trailing 13-6, England threatened the French line within minutes of the restart and Farrell hung up a diagonal bomb for Anthony Watson to contest but he knocked on in the air and the French breathed a sigh of relief. 

Baptiste Pesenti’s failure to wrap his arms in the tackle allowed Farrell to close the gap to four points with 47 minutes played, but the England captain was wide to the right with his next shot at goal soon after Jones’ men had wasted a try-scoring chance wide on the right.

Farrell had another chance in the 59th minute, this time from essentially in front of the posts when Guillaume Ducat was penalised for a high tackle on Ben Earl, but the England centre remarkably missed to the right of the posts again.

The French lost Jalibert to injury heading into the final quarter, meaning the introduction of Louis Carbonel for his second Test cap, and his first touch was a wild one as he kicked out on the full after a poor pass from scrum-half Baptiste Couilloud.

owen-farrell-kicks-a-penalty Owen Farrell struggled off the tee. Source: Craig Mercer/INPHO

Captain Couilloud soon made up for his error was a bit turnover penalty at the breakdown and when France went down the other end, they won another penalty and Carbonel nailed his kick to leave France seven points in front.

Farrell finally found his kicking boots for a three-pointer off the tee with seven minutes remaining, reducing the French lead to 16-12.

But les Bleus weren’t for fading as the regained the restart, won another penalty, and watched Carbonel hold his nerve from wide on the right, his kick glancing in off the right posts.

With the final seconds ticking away, England manufactured one more chance as they kicked into the left corner and their maul produced the goods to allow replacement hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie to power over.

Farrell converted with the French racing out and roaring at him and so the game went to the most dramatic bout of sudden death. 

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The English skipper missed a prime chance to win it and the first 10-minute half of extra time was played out without a score as both sides paused briefly for a much-needed breather before Farrell’s final act.

England scorers:

Tries: Luke Cowan-Dickie

Conversions: Owen Farrell [1 from 1]

Penalties: Owen Farrell [4 from 8], Elliot Daly [1 from 1]

France scorers:

Tries: Brice Dulin

Conversions: Matthieu Jalibert [1 from 1]

Penalties: Matthieu Jalibert [2 from 2], Louis Carbonel [2 from 2]

ENGLAND: Elliot Daly; Anthony Watson (Max Malins ’69), Henry Slade, Owen Farrell (captain), Jonny May; George Ford, Ben Youngs (Dan Robson ’69); Ellis Genge (Joe Marler ’58), Jamie George (Luke Cowan-Dickie ’65), Kyle Sinckler (Will Stuart ’65); Maro Itoje, Joe Launchbury (Jonny Hill ’44); Tom Curry, Sam Underhill (Ben Earl ’44), Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: Joe Marchant.

FRANCE: Brice Dulin; Alivereti Raka, Yoram Moefana, Jonathan Danty (Pierre-Louis Barassi), Gabin Villiere; Matthieu Jalibert (Louis Carbonel ’61), Baptiste Couilloud (captain ’47) (Sebastien Bezy ’80); Hassan Kolingar (Rodrigue Neti ’53), Pierre Bourgarit (Peato Mauvaka ’53), Dorian Aldegheri (Uini Atonio ’40); Kilian Geraci, Baptiste Pesenti (Guillaume Ducat ’56); Cameron Woki (Sekou Macalou ’56), Anthony Jelonch, Selevasio Tolofua.

Referee: Andrew Brace [IRFU].

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Murray Kinsella

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