England finally find winning form
England produce best performance so far as they thrash France 34-10 in Six Nations.
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2009 06:12 GMT

Delon Armitage keeps France's Mathieu Bastareaud at arms length [GALLO/GETTY]
England finally cut out the indiscipline to rout visiting France 34-10 in the Six Nations and produce their best performance since the 2007 World Cup.

Manager Martin Johnson's exhortations to his team to stop conceding yellow cards paid off as a fluid home side blended forward power and sparkling back play to outscore France by five tries to two at Twickenham.

France went into the game title hopefuls after beating defending champions Wales but ended the game well out of contention.

Dominant performance

The visitors were punished for the sort of errors that have blighted England's recent performances, straying offside at the breakdown and continually turning over possession.

England, who had conceded 10 yellow cards in their past four matches, led within a minute and were 29-0 up at halftime after tries by Mark Cueto, Riki Flutey, Delon Armitage and Joe Worsley.

Flutey touched down again at the start of the second period before an improved French team, bolstered by replacements, scored through Dimitri Szarzewski and Julien Malzieu.

"It just showed that when we execute what we want to do, we open them up and score tries,'' Johnson said on Sunday.

"The guys had confidence in what we were trying to do on the ball.''

The visitors' late rally ensured England did not rival the 37-0 win in 1911 that represents their biggest ever win over France, but England still moved above their opponent to third in the standings and could even finish as runner-up with victory over Scotland in next week's final round.

Ireland lead following Saturday's 22-15 victory at Scotland and can complete their first Grand Slam since 1948 if they win at second-place Wales.

France's last match is at last-place Italy, who lost 20-15 to Wales on Saturday.

Learning lessons

Johnson had a referee go through every one of the 18 penalties England gave away in their 14-13 loss at Ireland two weeks ago and it paid off.

"A superb performance from the boys and there's loads to come,'' flanker Tom Croft said.

Results and fixtures

Saturday March 14

 Italy 15 - 20 Wales
 Scotland 15-22 Ireland

Sunday March 15

 England 34-10 France

Saturday March 21

 Italy v France
 England v Scotland  
 Wales v Ireland

"The boys got the ball in hand, created space and there's a lot more to come.''

A knock on from Ugo Monye's high ball gave England early possession and the home side surged up the middle of the field, leaving Flutey one on one with Sebastian Chabal.

Flutey raced past the giant flanker and flipped the ball to Cueto on the right wing for him to touch down behind posts before hurling the ball into the crowd in jubilation.

Toby Flood added the conversion but England's recent failings seemed to be surfacing when lock Simon Shaw came into a ruck from the side, giving away a penalty that was just too far out for Morgan Parra to kick on target.

Shaw was penalised again moments later for ignoring referee Stuart Dickinson's warning that he was offside, allowing France to kick for a lineout on England's 22, but it was a French infringement that led to the next score - Flood making it 10-0 after Imanol Harinordoquy was penalised for stepping offside at a ruck.

Another penalty for offside led to a lineout on the French 22. The ball was swiftly worked out to Flood, who flipped a disguised inside pass to Cueto on his shoulder.

The wing beat the defensive line and offloaded to Flutey for a simple score that Flood again converted.

Mark Lievremont can't bear to watch [GALLO/GETTY]
'No game'

"We really wanted to confirm our good game against Wales and it did not happen,'' France coach Marc Lievremont said. "There was no game today.''

Tom Croft was only denied another try in the 25th minute because Armitage's pass in the build-up floated forward, but England soon got the ball back up to the try line in the right-hand corner.

After patient probing, it was worked out to Armitage on the overlap and he touched down.

France then swiftly gifted possession back to England and, although Cueto could not quite gather the resulting kick upfield, he managed to toe poke the ball to Flood.

The flyhalf lost his footing just short of the line, hurting his shoulder to be replaced at halftime, but there was plenty of support and Worsley crashed over to make it 29-0 at halftime.

Things got even better for the raucous home fans, who endured miserable home losses to all three Tri-Nations teams in November, when Armitage ran half the length of the field moments into the second half to set up Flutey for another simple try.

"We always knew we were a better side than we showed in the autumn,'' Johnson said.

Hooker Szarzewski and winger Malzieu touched down to trim the deficit, the second score coming after Dickinson warned England for continually infringing at a series of scrums.

The players listened this time, completing the whole game with 15 men on the field.

They returned to it after the final whistle to applaud the crowd and receive their cheers.

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