Saturday, 20 March 2010

England's Key Battles

France beat England 12-10 on a rain soaked evening in Paris to clinch their ninth Grand Slam.

However England came close to ruining the party, and would have won the game if they hadn't missed a couple of scoring chances.

But there is still plenty to smile about if you're an England fan.

OK, so England should have scored at least one more try.  It's also true that Martin Johnson's men were unable to convert their lion's share of possesion into match-winning points. 

But despite the difficult conditions England showed flashes of brilliance which have been sadly missing from their previous performances in the tournament.

Ben Foden scored a sensational try after five minutes, when England quickly worked the ball through several pairs of hands and exposed France's half-arsed defence.

Unfortunately Chris Ashton kicked away a prime try-scoring chance, but other than that he made a solid debut.  Mike Tindall came back from nowhere and put in a great performance.  In fact, England's backline looked much more threatening as a whole.  There were still problems at scrum time, with prop Dan Cole looking a bit shaky and hooker Dylan Hartley was a little inconsistent.

However, as an England fan, I feel much happier about their performance.  I just hope Martin Johnson remembers how successful the Ben Foden/Chris Ashton experiment was come the summer tour.

All that aside,  during the game I noticed a few key battles which I'd like to draw your attention to:

Martin Johnson 0 v 1 Crazy French Lady

Or Raphael Ibanez's mother-in-law to use her correct title.  The England coach really had his work cut out, as Ibanez's rather vocal relative let Johnno know exactly what she felt about his team.

"Sit DOWN!"

Brian Moore 1 v 0 Referee Bryce Lawrence

Beware rugby officials everywhere.  Brian Moore, ex-hooker and now BBC pundit, is ready to hunt you down.  The former England front row is now a fully qualified referee - and don't we know it.  To give Brian his dues, he was right when he called Bryce's performance "below average".  The ref got a couple of blindingly obvious decisions wrong, and Moore duly savaged him like a rabid dog.

Martin Johnson 1 v 0 Bryce Lawrence

During the first half, referee Lawrence got it into his head that England prop Dan Cole was to blame for all of the problems at scrum time.  Cole was pinged again and again and again.  OK so he was at fault on a couple of occasions, but the Leicester loosehead seemed to cop the flak for pretty much everything.  Well ha ha to you ref.  Johnno shocked pretty much everyone at the start of the second half when David Wilson and Steve Thompson ran out to replace Cole and hooker Dylan Hartley.  But the strategy worked: the scrum steadied and the ref couldn't pin everything on Cole.  Excellent tactics.

Mike Tindall 1 v 0 Harry Potter

When it was announced that Gloucester centre Tindall was back in the number 13 shirt I sighed in frustration.  However, how wrong I was.  Good old Tinds had a fantastic game with his strong, direct running and he was one of England's best players.  When boy wizard look-a-like Mathew Tait swapped places with Tinds, England lost a lot of their momentum.  Tindall might not be a man for the future, but he certainly was more magical than Tait in this game.

Heaven 1 - 0 Earth

The heavens above Paris opened and the Stade de France pitch was duly unearthed.  Massive clods of grass were popping up everywhere.  In fact, it looked like an army of moles had taken residence and the rumbling French scrum had caused them to burrow to the surface to see what all the noise was about.  Pas bien.  It was also pretty dangerous.  I mean, tiny France Wing Marc Andreu could have easily disappeared forever down one of the holes.

Regardless of all of the above, it was a good game.  France weren't the best team on the day, but they were the best team in the tournament by far and fully deserved to win the Grand Slam.

Next year England.  Next year....


  1. Bamberio, it was by far England's best game of the tournament in a losing effort to France. Ben Foden's try had the England fans at Brit's Pub in Minneapolis on their feet.

    I had to ask myself if the French laid the sod at the Stade de France yesterday, because it was insane just how some very LARGE pieces of sod were getting ripped out of the ground-and the weather conditions, although wet, were not THAT bad...

    What about Scotland avoiding the wooden spoon with their surprise win at Croke Park against Ireland?

  2. I agree with Nursedude - this is the problem with using rugby stadia for other purposes - the same thing happens to the 'carpet' at the millenium stadium - someone will definitely break something serious one of these days on the mole hills thrown up - not to mention the slip-sliding around that the runners end up doing

    Shame the ref was so inept in Paris, a decent ref might have given a vastly improved England side the win they deserved on the day - but fair play to the Scottish side, a fitting result whose whole performance this 6nations has been unfairly shown in the results - a great match, definitely the best of the championships

  3. Incidentally - any idea who got man of the match in the France v England match - it seemed to get lost in the melee and in Brian's indignation with the ref!

  4. Scotland's win over Ireland was a really well worked victory. The Scots were excellent, and they exposed Ireland in the set piece like no other team has managed in the tournament. They fully deserved the victory after coming so close against Wales and England.

    It was definitely one of the best games in the championship, but I think the award for the most exciting game has to go to Wales v Scotland for the ridiculous final ten minutes!

    Oh and Anne - I have no idea who was Man of the Match in the France v England game. I'd say it would have probably gone to Parra or Tindall maybe? What do you think?

  5. Man of the match.....Bryce Lawrence maybe?
    Take nothing away from France though worthy champions, just pleased to see England playing some rugby at last. Will it all change when the favoured one return - MJ please take on board what the new guys did and without bloody Borthwick too.

  6. wouldn't like to say - Tinds had a great game - Foden was inspirational - I reckon Brian Moore was so incensed about the ref's performance that he forgot to award it! :o)

  7. I think the French award MOM on their home games.

  8. I think Parra, who is also having a great year with Clermont Auvergne was the man of the match.

    Even though it went over, that was one ugly drop goal from Trinh-Duc.

  9. My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!