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France beats England with last-minute penalty to finish Six Nations on a high

LYON, France (AP) — For France, there is nothing tastier than a win over its English “best enemies” in the Six Nations.

Especially when it comes at the last minute of an enthralling contest.

The French managed to get one for the ages on Saturday after Thomas Ramos landed a 50-meter penalty to give his team a 33-31 win in Lyon. The result over bitter rival England ensured France finished the championship runner-up to Ireland.

After a stuttering and insipid start to the tournament marred by a lopsided loss to Ireland and a lucky draw against Italy, France followed its swashbuckling win in Wales last weekend with another solid and disciplined display in Lyon.

“Our attack was fantastic especially our maul,” France defense coach Shaun Edwards said. “I was very disappointed with our defense, I thought England’s attack was all over us, particularly in our midfield.

“We have a lot of work to do. We shouldn’t have to score 30 points to win a game, even if it’s exciting.”

The French scored three tries — one fewer than England — and managed to fight back after England came from behind early in the second half to take control of the match.

England scored three tries in seven minutes bridging halftime to rush from 3-16 behind to 24-16 ahead.

“We gave ourselves a scare,” Ramos said. “Even if everything isn’t perfect, we’ve got the desire back.”

The second half was a rollercoaster, and England coach Steve Borthwick focused on the bright side after the bitter defeat.

“The weight of the shirt is starting to look lighter. We are all disappointed we didn’t get the win but we have started competing with the top teams again,” he said. “We don’t just want to compete, we want to win, but we have made steps in the right direction.”

England made sure the championship was suspenseful until the final day by derailing Ireland’s Grand Slam bid with a resounding win at Twickenham last weekend. But Ireland got things back on track by beating Scotland 17-13 earlier Saturday to wrap up back-to-back titles before France and England kicked off.

Looking to avenge the humiliating 53-10 loss to France at Twickenham last year — England’s record home defeat — England was under pressure from the start.

France combined creative attack with solid defense and dominant mauls to camp in England’s half.

England was forced into an early change, with Marcus Smith coming in after just eight minutes to replace injured fullback George Furbank.

The visitors led against the run of play when George Ford, on his 31st birthday, kicked his only penalty after Uini Atonio was sanctioned for collapsing.

Ramos leveled and France sped up the game to score its first try. From lineout ball, Gael Fickou fed fullback Leo Barre, who found Nolann Le Garrec inside for a touchdown converted by Ramos.

Two long-range penalties by Ramos sent France up 16-3.

England reduced the gap just before halftime when Ollie Lawrence busted past Fickou to cross the line.

The French were caught off guard at the start of the second half when Lawrence crashed over again followed four minutes later by Smith through a poor Ramos tackle. England led 24-16.

The French recovered from the lapses with a try from Barre with extra from Ramos to trail by only one point.

They went in front when an England lineout overthrow was hacked by Ramos, caught by Damian Penaud, and Fickou sprinted away to the posts for his 17th international try. Ramos converted again and France led 30-24 with a quarter to go.

Ramos was well wide with a penalty, his first miss in seven goalkicks, to give France some breathing room, and it looked worse when Ford and Smith combined to unleash wing Tommy Freeman to the line. Ford stayed perfect and converted from wide out, and England led 31-30.

With a minute left, Earl was penalized for a no-arms tackle on Romain Taofifenua, and Ramos shrugged off his previous miss and made the kick from halfway, sending the French fans into rapturous celebrations.


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