England men U20s defeat France in Six Nations
England men got their Six Nations campaign back on track with a 31-19 bonus-point victory over reigning world U20 champions France at Sandy Park.
Following last weekend’s loss to Ireland, England scored five tries to defeat the current Six Nations champions in front of 8,895 fans at the home of Exeter Chiefs.
England led 24-12 at the break with tries from Ollie Sleightholme, Tom Willis, Olly Adkins as well as a penalty try and Marcus Smith’s conversions, while France replied through Jordan Joseph and Julien Delbouis scores as well as a conversion from Louis Carbonel.
A second half penalty try extended England’s lead to 19 points but a late France saw the game end 31-19.
England started brightly and after the home pack turned over a scrum, Sleightholme went over in the corner for a first try at U20 level.
France lost Jean-Baptiste Gros to the bin after persistent scrum infringements and following further indiscretion England were awarded a penalty try taking the score to 12-0.
Joseph crashed over from close range for France’s first try of the afternoon before Willis bundled over off the back of a maul for a third England score.
Delbouis got France back in the game, battering over shortly before the break and Carbonel’s conversion reduced the deficit to five points.
Crucially though, Adkins sealed a four-try bonus point for England on the stroke of half-time and Smith’s conversion took the score to 24-12.
England were awarded a second penalty try after a driving maul was collapsed by France as their forward dominance continued after the break.
That dominance resulted in a second yellow card for scrum infringement with Akhim Bouzhir sent to the bin.
France were then awarded a penalty try themselves with six minutes remaining with Joel Kpoku sent to the sin bin for collapsing a maul close to England’s try line.
The visitors thought they had secured both a try scoring and a losing bonus point when they crossed the line in the final play of the match but the try was ruled out for an obstruction and the game finished 31-19 in England’s favour.
England openside flanker Aaron Hinkley was named both Sky Sports’ man-of-the-match and England fans’ man-of-the-match following an all action display.
England next face Wales on Friday 22 February at Colwyn Bay.
Steve Bates said: “It was a performance that reflected the circumstances we were in.
“We were desperately keen to win, we’ve probably got more to our game than you probably saw today but I think the win was the important thing and it gets us back on track.
“There was a bit of nervousness but the pack played extremely well but we know we can defend better and our discipline must be better. Overall though it was an important victory.
“The performance of the pack gave us a huge psychological advantage throughout, every scrum we had put them under massive pressure and that gave us huge momentum and allowed us to also score a couple of tries.
“We are right back in the tournament though and we will go on from here.”
15. Josh Hodge (Newcastle Falcons), 14. Ollie Sleightholme (Northampton Saints), 13. Ollie Lawrence (Worcester Warriors), 12. Cameron Redpath (Sale Sharks), 11. Arron Reed (Sale Sharks), 10. Marcus Smith (Harlequins), 9. Sam Maunder (Exeter Chiefs), 1. Olly Adkins (Gloucester), 2. Nic Dolly (Sale Sharks), 3. Marcus Street (Exeter Chiefs), 4. Joel Kpoku (Saracens), 5. Alex Coles (Northampton Saints), 6. Ted Hill (Worcester Warriors), 7. Aaron Hinkley (Gloucester), 8. Tom Willis (Wasps)
16. Ben Atkins (London Irish), 17. Kai Owen (Worcester Warriors), 18. Joe Heyes (Leicester Tigers), 19. James Scott (Worcester Warriors), 20. Rusiate Tuima (Exeter Chiefs), 21. Ollie Fox (Yorkshire Carnegie), 22. Tom Hardwick (Leicester Tigers), 23. Tom de Glanville (Bath Rugby).